CIF Water Polo: #1 Seed Corona del Mar to Face Unseeded Esperanza in Final

NEWPORT BEACH, CA., Nov. 14. ONE game more and Coach John Vargas' Sea Kings will be "Kings of the Pool" for the third-consecutive year.

Corona del Mar's Sea Kings (22-3), double-defending Division II CIF boys' water polo champs, will face unseeded Esperanza Saturday evening at the Belmont Plaza Olympic Pool for the title.

Corona del Mar, which won its opening- and quarter-final matches by 20-3 and 19-1 margins, had more competition yesterday at home in the semis against
Los Alamitos, but still won handily, 12-6.

The Sea Kings got pairs of early goals from Mike March, Artie Dorr and John Mason and controlled the game throughout.

"That's firepower right there," Vargas said of his Big Three.

"After [top-seeded] Servite lost in the quarters last weekend [to unheralded Esperanza] we stressed mental preperation throughout the entire time leading up to our semi-final match. We didn't want to be sitting on the sidelines come Saturday."

Vargas will leave as coach of the Sea Kings Jan. 1 to take over the men's program at Stanford.

In the other semi-final at Newport, Anaheim Esperanza rode Jameson Burmeister's two-meter goal with 1:58 remaining in overtime to a 10-9 victory over Laguna Beach, gaining the finals after losing last year in the first round of the playoffs.

"Hey, guys, guess where we're going?" exclaimed an ecstatic Jason Vriers after the final buzzer sounded.

Esperanza finished third in the Sunset League this season while the Laguna Beach Artists won their loop title. In last year's semis Laguna also lost, although that time it was to defending champ Corona del Mar, 11-4.

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On the Division 1 front, Coach Rich Corso's Harvard-Westlake Wolverines of North Hollywood — seeded third — overcame a two-goal deficit with five minutes remaining before defeating Lake Forest El Toro, 11-10 in overtime.

Harvard-Westlake (18-4) will now face No. 1-seeded Long Beach Wilson for the title Saturday at Belmont. Wilson's Bruins (22-7) edged San Clemente, 9-8, to advance into the finals. Both semis were played at the Joint Forces Training Center pool in Los Alamitos.

Wilson has won the DI Championship four of the last five years, faltering only last season when it lost in the quarters. And the Bruins have also reached the title game five of the past eight seasons — including 1998, when it won over Harvard-Westlake, 11-8.

Harvard-Westlake was also a quarter-final loser last year and last year's champs, Newport Harbor, lost last Saturday — also in the quarters.

In the Harvard-El Toro game, the winners' Eddie Berman scored the only goal in overtime. The Wolverines were awarded back-to-back man-advantage situations and Berman scored on the second.

"We had the team chemistry to pull us through," said junior Marty Mathies, who scored four goals — including a pair in the last four minutes of the last quarter. Whether that "chemistry" will be enough to overcome Wilson remains to be seen.

In the Wilson-San Clemente game, the victory marked the 15-consecutive time the Bruins (22-7) have beaten the Tritons. As to what "forces" keep Wilson winning, Coach Tony Martinho has no explanation. "I really have no answer as to why we're so succcessful. It's
unexplainable," he explained. He added that the match against Harvard-Westlake figures to be his team's most difficult of the season.

"Anytime you reach the championship round you're going against the best but we'll be prepared."

Before its merger with Harvard in the late '80s, Westlake was a very exclusive all-girls school in mid-town Lo Angeles. It was also then home to a certain prominent American swimmer who last year became the oldest woman to ever win an Olympic gold medal — then 32-year-old Dara Torres, who was also CIF champ in the 50-100 frees in the early '80s.

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In the Divisin III semi-finals, Bell Gardens, which upset defending-champ Mira Costa in the quarters, bowed to La Serna. Whittier defeated South Pasadena, 8-6 to also reach the finals. Whittier's Stuart Johnson scored 12 seconds into overtime to help lead his team to victory.

In Division IV, defending champ and second-seeded Santa Barbara (25-7) assured itself of a repeat trip to the finals with a 10-8 win over Malibu. Craig Edelman's three goals sparked the winners. There SB will face top-seeded Ventura, which gained its seeding despite a pair of losses to the defending champ late in the regular season. Santa Barbara defeated Ventura last year for the championship, 8-7.

In Division V, Eric Qualls' five goals and teammate Mike Looy's four powered Riverside Poly (29-3) to a 15-3 win over Etiwanda. Poly will battle Palm Desert, winner over Arlington.

Similar to the Division IV Championships, the Division V match-up features the defending champ (Poly) against the team it beat for the title in 2000 (Palm Desert). Poly won that game, 25-8.

In Division VI, Bonita La Verne will battle top-seeded Damien for the title. La Verne got a two-meter goal from Greg Perry with one second remaining in overtime to give the No. 2 seed an 8-7 victory over Brea Olinda.

La Verne's Bearcats are now 25-9 while Damien, 30-1, advances via a victory over Los Altos.

La Verne's win over B-O was its third one-goal triumph against the Wildcats this season.

La Verne lost in last year's DVI Championship, 10-9 to Rowland, but made up for that loss this year with a victory in last Saturday's quarter-finals against the defending champs.

— Bill Bell

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