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BOYS' WATER POLO

Battling Back

Newport Harbor's Sailors Ride a Winning Wave Back to Where They Started: On Top of the Rankings

October 24, 2000|MELANIE NEFF

Newport Harbor earned a little R&R this week before heading to San Jose Thursday to compete in the Tru-West 2000 Memorial Cup.

The Sailors closed out an impressive week that saw them knock off three of the Southern Section's top teams. It started on Tuesday with a huge 6-4 victory over Villa Park, which at the time was the No. 1 team in the section's Division I poll. On Friday, they toppled Foothill, then-No. 4 in Division I, and then finished with a victory Saturday over Los Alamitos, the No. 2 team in Division II.

The victories put the Sailors back on top of the Division I poll, where they began the season as the favorite to win the section championship. However, after struggling with early losses to Long Beach Wilson, Coronado and Villa Park, they fell to as low as sixth place.

Now they're on a roll, riding a seven-game winning streak heading into the final big test of the regular season.

Newport Harbor (17-4), ranked No. 2 in the county, will open the tournament against Morgan Hill Live Oak at 11:15 a.m. Friday. If the Sailors win, and they should, they will most likely meet No. 5 San Clemente. If they advance to the semifinals, a rematch with Villa Park (No. 2 in Division I) is likely. Corona del Mar and El Toro are the other county teams participating in the tournament.

"This is the big one," Newport Harbor Coach Brian Kreutzkamp said. "Nor Cal is going to decide [Division I playoff seedings], because we will most likely see [Villa Park] again."

The Sailors' last loss was to Corona del Mar--the No. 1 team in the county and Division II--in the title game of the S&R Sport Cup, the county's version of this weekend's tournament in San Jose. Kreutzkamp and his squad are primed and hoping for a rematch in this weekend's championship.

"I'd love to see them again," Kreutzkamp said. "But there is a long way to go to get there."

The Sailors' defense has been the key to their success of late. After giving up 13 goals in their 15-13 victory over La Jolla The Bishops, the Sailors allowed only 16 in their last three games. Brandon McLain and Shawn Johnson combined for 30 saves, while defenders limited some of the county's best scorers: Villa Park's T.J. Matijevich scored two, Foothill's Wes Fox and Los Alamitos' Erik Geoffroy scored three.

Peter Belden, who leads the Sailors with 73 goals and 46 steals, held Geoffroy scoreless in the final quarter on Saturday, and finished with four goals himself. Against Foothill he had four goals, three assists and three steals, and against Villa Park he had two goals and three steals. Ryan Cook leads the team in assists with 62, and McLain and Johnson have combined for 214 saves.

"I'm very happy with how we are playing," Kreutzkamp said after the team's victory over Villa Park. "To hold the No. 1 team in Division I to four goals is pretty impressive. Our defense is really clicking."

LOOKING AHEAD

University moved back into the county's top 10 this week after upsetting eighth-ranked Laguna Beach in a Pacific Coast League game. This Wednesday, the No. 10 Trojans will try to pull off the near impossible task of beating No. 1 Corona del Mar for the league title. Ted Peck and crew will try to shutdown the Sea Kings dominating offense of Artie Dorr, Mike March and Garrett Bowlus beginning at 3:45 p.m. Wednesday at Corona del Mar High.

WATER SHORTAGE

Santa Ana Valley has been playing without a pool for the last month while workers try to fix some leaking pipes at the on-campus facility.

Terry Orabona, girls' athletic director, said the pool should be "up and running in the first week of November."

The Falcons have had to travel to Santa Ana High for practices. They are currently in the hunt for a playoff berth, tied for third in the Century League with Canyon, a team they face again Wednesday.

"It has made for some late nights after practice," Orabona said. "The boys will be getting off a bus at 6 or 7 o'clock and I ask, 'Did you have a game?' They say no, we just finished practice."

The Valley girls' team has also been training at Santa Ana.

Because off-season practice is limited to physical education classes, Valley had to petition the Southern Section to allow the girls' squad to practice at Santa Ana for the same number of hours.

*

Staff writer Martin Henderson contributed to this report.

If you have an item or idea for the high school water polo report, you can fax us at (714) 966-5663 or e-mail us at melanie.neff@latimes.com.

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