BELMONT SHORES, CA., November 23. JOHN Vargas may have left the building but the Sea Kings continue to make waves.
Vargas, who guided Corona del Mar High's Sea Kings to the last three CIF Southern Section Division II boys' water polo championships, has taken over the reins of the Stanford men's program, where his defending NCAA champ Cardinal is top-ranked again this season heading into next week's Mountain Pacific Sports Federation tourney at Los Alamitos.
CDM is still a polo powerhouse, however, even though it has been moved into Division 1 for this season. The Sea Kings edged North Hollywood Harvard-Westlake, 3-2, in one semi-final match earlier this week to gain a berth in tonight's championship against defending titlest and top-seeded Long Beach Wilson's Bruins.
(Harvard-Westlake also lost last season's championship game to Wilson, 9-7.)
Wilson earned the right to defend its title by edging Lake Forest El Toro, 13-11. The Bruins have also defeated CDM thrice this season (albeit in non-league matches) and Wilson coach Tony Martinho — who was on his school's initial CIF championship squad 21 years ago — is fond of saying: "The fourth time is the charm."
So it'll be the champ vs. the champ when the Sea Kings (21-7) and the Bruins (30-0) face off in the Belmont Plaza Olympic Pool here tonight at 8:15 PM PST. Wilson has won the DI championship five of the last six seasons.
The match will be the culmination of a full day of boys' prep water polo championship matches as five other divisional titles will also be decided. (The CIF SS conducts girls' water polo during the spring.)
* * * * *
Both Wilson and Corona del Mar had exceellent opportunities to scout each other without leaving the deck during the semis Wednesday, as both matches were played at nearby Newport Harbor High.
In the CDM-Harvard game, the Sea Kings held a tenuous 3-2 advantage late in the fourth-quarter when senior goalie Brett Stockstill — a member of the United States' national junior team –sealed the victory with back-to-back saves against Juan Delgadillo with 20 seconds remaining.
Stockstill, who finished with a game-high 16 saves, knocked down a hard shot by Delgadillo from the flank. But the Harvard star then grabbed the defelection and tried a lob shot. No dice. Stockstill sent the ball flying over the cage.
Harvard then tried to get a final shot off from 2 meters, but it was wide and Stockstill out-sprinted an opposing Wolverine player to the corner to clinch the victory.
Stockstill said he and his teammates felt confident throughout the game but that "it was pretty exciting there at the end, and all 28 minutes were intense, very intense."
Sea King John Money lived up to his name b y scoring what would prove to be the decisive goal with 4:28 remaining in the final period on a pass from Ryan Moore,. Money's earlier goal gave CDM a 3-1 lead.
* * * * *
In Wilson's 13-11 victory over El Toro, the Chargers put a scare into the defending-champ Bruins by erasing an 8-4 third-quarter deficit to tie the score going into the final period.
Playing before a highly partisan and overflow crowd of more than 1000 rabid fans on a glorious Southern California afternoon Wednesday, Wilson scored a pair of counterattack goals in the first two minutes of the final period to open up a two-goal lead that would prove to be insurmountable.
El Toro was undaunted, hwoever, and twice cut the lead to a goal, the final time with 3:17 remaining. But Wilson came back 27 seconds later to score the decisive goal as Matt Norris found the cage and, as they say, the rest was history.
The Bruins were led by Thomas Hale's six goals,
* * * * *
The Division II final will be between Servite and Los Alamitos. Servite's Friars will be looking to avenge last year's semifinal loss to Esperanza, which cost the then top-seeded team a shot at the championship.
In the Division III finals, it'll be South Pasadena vs. Mira Costa; in DIV the matchup features Ventura, last year's runner-up team, against Righetti; in DV it's double-defending champ Riverside Poly vs. Damien and in DVI it'll be Los Altos vs. Bonita. The latter was last season's runner-up by a 9-2 margin to Damian, which has now moved into DV.
– Bill Bell