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Sea Kings Regaining Rightful Place

October 10, 2000|MELANIE NEFF

The S&R Sport Water Polo Cup last weekend was a big test for Corona del Mar, and it passed with flying colors.

When Corona del Mar coach John Vargas returned from guiding the U.S. men's water polo team in the Olympics, he found the Sea Kings adrift and looking for direction. They had only competed in five games, all in the South Coast Tournament, where they lost to Foothill and Long Beach Wilson. And while they were ranked No. 1 in the Southern Section Division II poll and No. 5 in the county, they hadn't been living up to their potential.

But since Vargas' return last week, the defending Division II champions have won six consecutive games, including a 12-11 nail-biter over Newport Harbor for the title of the S&R Sport Cup, and a one-point victory over Laguna Beach for control of the Pacific Coast League.

The Sea Kings' run through the tournament, which featured the best teams in the state, reinforced what many coaches already knew. Corona del Mar is back on top.

The Sea Kings opened the tournament by defeating Davis, the defending Sac-Joaquin Section champion, 11-7. Next they blasted San Clemente, the top team in Division I and the county, 9-4. Long Beach Wilson, the defending Division I champion, was the next victim, falling 9-6.

Wilson Coach Tony Martinho was amazed at the difference.

"Their faces look the same, but this is a different team," Martinho said. "I think the team we played the first time was the frosh-soph team. This was the men.

"If this is how teams in Division II play, I'm glad we are in Division I."

Corona del Mar moved down to Division II before last season when it left the Sea View League for the Pacific Coast League. That move still irritates many coaches who would like to see the best teams competing for the upper-division title.

"The biggest shame about this whole thing is Corona del Mar should be Division I," Newport Harbor Coach Brian Kreutzkamp said. "Their two-meter game is far superior; with three horses they can interchange."

Those "horses" would be Artie Dorr, Garrett Bowlus and Mike March.

Despite being double- and triple-teamed, Dorr still scored five goals, including two in the fourth quarter, to clinch the title and earn tournament MVP honors. Bowlus had three goals and March had two. March was key to the victory over Wilson with five goals. Dorr and Bowlus each had two.

"We were psyched after beating Wilson," said reserve goalkeeper Beau Stockstill, who made two crucial saves in the final minute to secure the title-game victory. "Artie and Mike March are the reason we won this tournament."

Now the Sea Kings (9-2) can work on refining their game before the playoffs. They have some tough nonleague opponents coming up, including Foothill and Servite, and another matchup against Wilson. But a loss to Division I's Foothill or Wilson shouldn't hurt their division ranking, and a loss to any other team now seems highly unlikely.


The Sea Kings' cross-town rival, No. 3 Newport Harbor, also got off to a slow start this season. The preseason favorite to win the Division I title, the Sailors suffered three early-season losses. But Newport Harbor (10-4), too, is hitting stride.

Kreutzkamp said his goal at the S&R Cup was to play well enough to move up in the Division I rankings. With little competition for the Sailors in the Sea View League, Kreutzkamp has to rely on nonleague victories to bolster his team's seeding for the playoffs. He got two with Newport Harbor's victories over highly regarded North Hollywood Harvard-Westlake and Coronado, San Diego's top team.

"We did what we needed to do," Kreutzkamp said.


Santa Margarita's quest for its first Serra League title begins Wednesday when the Eagles travel to Servite for a 6 p.m. game.

Last year, Santa Margarita never got untracked against Servite. And for good reason. Starters Nick Nolan, Garrett Marquis and Adam Szeremeta decided to drive to the game instead of taking the team bus, which turned out to be a mistake. The players got lost and arrived 45 minutes late, to find their team already trailing, 7-0. Coach Peter Asic was so disappointed, he left them on the bench to watch the rest of the game, which the Friars won, 25-1.

This year, the Eagles return an experienced squad and have been ranked as high as No. 8 in the county. Servite is No. 7.


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