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BOYS' WATER POLO

Pool Play

South Coast an Early Chance to Check Out Competition

September 19, 2000|MELANIE NEFF

The best teams in Southern California converge in Orange County this week, as the South Coast tournament gets underway at four pools around the county.

Newport Harbor hosts the contest, which boasts seven of the Southern Section's Division I top-10 teams and seven of the Division II top-10 squads.

The tournament will help the stronger teams rise to the surface and give coaches an idea of where they stand early in the season.

"I think things are pretty wide open this year," said Foothill Coach Jim Brumm. "For the past four years it's been Long Beach Wilson and then everyone else, but now everyone else is back in the boat. It should be a great tournament."

Wilson, the top-ranked team in Division I, defeated Newport Harbor in a season-opener last week. The Sailors then lost to Coronado. Now they are hoping to get another shot at Wilson and defend the tournament title.

"I don't know how they lost to Wilson," San Clemente Coach Marc Parker said. "Newport has a really strong squad and they only lost by one to Coronado, which is one of the top teams in the state, if not the country."

The 32-team South Coast tournament begins with pool-play at four different schools. The Sailors and Laguna Beach are the favorites to come out on top at Newport Harbor's pool. San Clemente and El Toro are the top-seeded teams playing at El Dorado. Villa Park and Long Beach Wilson are expected to move on from Tustin, and Foothill and Corona del Mar are the top teams playing at Corona del Mar.

Upsets, of course, should be expected.

El Cajon Valhalla, one of San Diego's top teams, is seeded third in Newport Harbor's pool. Los Alamitos and Santa Margarita hope to give fourth-ranked San Clemente and seventh-ranked El Toro a run. Corona del Mar, which has yet to play a game, will probably meet Servite or Capistrano Valley in the second round.

"If you look at the top two teams in every bracket, you are seeing the best teams in Southern California," Newport Harbor Coach Brian Kreutzcamp said. "Out of those top eight teams any one could get first place. I just want to see how close we are with everyone else."

Parker is hoping to get a preview of upcoming South Coast League competition.

"I'm looking forward to playing El Toro, if that happens," Parker said. "I think it would be really good for us to play them before league begins and see where we stand."

Brumm is hoping to get his team some experience.

"We are still very young," he said. "We are looking for stability. We still have a lot to work on and this will help us see where we stand."

The three-day tournament begins at 3 p.m. Thursday, with games every hour to 8 p.m. Friday's schedule is the same. Play continues Saturday at all four sites, but the semifinals are 9:50 and 11 a.m. at Newport Harbor High, followed by the finals at 3:40 p.m.

THE EAGLES SOAR

Santa Margarita made a successful case for moving into the county's top-10 rankings, upsetting Riverside Poly, 16-13, for the championship of the Riverside water polo tournament Saturday.

The Eagles not only upset Poly, a top-10 team in Division I, but also knocked off La Habra, the county's ninth-ranked team, in the semifinals, 15-7. The two victories vaulted the Eagles into the county coaches' rankings at No. 9.

Nick Nolan, who led the Eagles with 19 goals in the tournament, credited Coach Peter Asic's new defense for their success.

"Our mixing defenses not only shut down our opponents, but paved the way for our fast-paced offense."

Santa Margarita goalkeeper Skip Bayless recorded 56 saves in five games and had two steals in the final.

The Eagles also earned a spot in this week's first Southern Section Division II poll, claiming the No. 3 position, ahead of Esperanza, Servite, Los Alamitos and La Habra.

However, for the Eagles to earn the respect they are looking for among county coaches, they need a strong showing in the South Coast tournament. They open against El Dorado, the team that knocked the Eagles out of the first round of last season's playoffs. If they get past the Hawks, they will probably face the San Clemente-El Toro winner at 7 p.m. Thursday.

"Winning the [Riverside] tournament was a big boost in confidence," Asic said. "If we play the way we did, we should do well this week."

LOOKING AHEAD

If the South Coast tournament isn't enough, several of the county's better teams will meet top opponents today. The best match sends No. 2 San Clemente to face Wilson. The Tritons are coming off a buzzer-beater victory over third-ranked Villa Park. Also today, fifth-ranked Foothill hosts eighth-ranked Esperanza and ninth-ranked La Habra plays at University.

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

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