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High Schools | SPOTLIGHT ON GIRLS' WATER POLO

Elite Will Meet Again in Santa Barbara

January 11, 2002|Dan Arritt

The Santa Barbara Tournament of Champions began as a good excuse for Mark Walsh to sleep in his own bed. Tired of accompanying his girls' team at Santa Barbara High south to compete against a greater number of elite teams, Walsh decided to play host to a two-day tournament.

Two years ago, it featured an eight-team field, and last year, after some selling, Walsh had it up to 16.

This season, he had to turn away some teams that hoped to return for today's opening rounds at UC Santa Barbara.

"That's been the hardest part because I've upset some people who wanted to come back," said Walsh, who dropped El Cajon Valhalla, Huntington Beach Marina and Lompoc Cabrillo this season in favor of San Diego University, Carlsbad and Ventura, teams he felt were playing at a higher level.

In addition to Santa Barbara, the other teams entered are Santa Ana Foothill, Santa Margarita, Lake Forest El Toro, Newport Harbor, Corona del Mar, Long Beach Wilson, Mission Viejo Capistrano Valley, Irvine, Agoura, Coronado, Riverside North and Riverside Arlington. That field includes seven teams ranked in The Times' top 10 and four of the top five.

"I'm also really excited about the San Diego teams that are coming," Walsh said. "And it's nice to get a team from the area like Ventura."

Santa Barbara defeated Foothill to win the inaugural tournament, but the Knights came back and beat Capistrano Valley for the title last season. Top-seeded Foothill is expected to return to Saturday's championship game, where it could face a showdown with second-seeded Santa Margarita.

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Making it official: Some coaches have voiced concern over the quality of officiating at the Santa Barbara tournament. Walsh agrees he has a smaller pool of officials to draw from, but doesn't expect a problem.

"I don't see a weak official on the schedule," he said. "I know in the past it has been an issue, but referees have always been an issue everywhere. I go down to Orange County and get upset just as much as they get upset up here."

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More officiating: Thousand Oaks Coach Jacinta Jarrell was still scratching her head a day after losing a Marmonte League opener Tuesday to Simi Valley Royal.

The Highlanders were awarded three penalty throws and converted each in a 5-4 victory. Both teams, along with Agoura, are expected to challenge for the league title.

"I was just pulling my hair out at the calls," Jarrell said. "I wish they would let the girls play on their merits. Our girls outswam them and were quicker up the pool. It was a very disappointing loss."

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Streak-buster: Riverside North's one-point victory Wednesday over Arlington not only put the Huskies in great position to win their first Ivy League title, but also ended a nine-game losing streak against Arlington.

North lost to the Lions three times during summer league play last year, three times last season and three times during the summer of 2000.

"That was a huge victory for us," North Coach Tom Finwall said.

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