Yokota steps up for Tars

Goalie helps Newport Harbor advance to today's semifinals in its quest to repeat as tourney champs.

July 24, 2010|By Steve Virgen,
(Kent Treptow / Daily…)

NEWPORT BEACH — As the California State High School Water Polo Championships approached, goalie Koby Yokota could hear something knocking, figuratively speaking, of course.

It was opportunity.

Yokota, the Newport Harbor High boys' back-up goalie, knew that starter Chris Whitelegge wouldn't be competing in the tournament that started Friday in Orange County.

Whitelegge, as well as fellow Newport Harbor Sailor Farrel South, are competing with the U.S. men's junior national team at an eight-nation tournament in Italy.

Before the state tournament began Friday, Newport Harbor Coach Jason Lynch spoke to Yokota.

"This is your last opportunity before Whitelegge comes back," Lynch said of what he told Yokota.

The Newport Harbor junior-to-be has been stepping up. He stood out in the Sailors' 15-4 quarterfinal win over Servite Saturday at Newport Harbor.

Yokota had 12 saves, including five in the final quarter.

"He did make some great saves," Lynch said. "That was one of his better games."


It was a welcomed performance for Yokota, who admitted he had been struggling. But he has gained some confidence during this tournament.

Yokota also didn't display complacency. With the Sailors leading 13-4 after three quarters, he continued to give an all-out effort.

With 35 seconds remaining, he made one of his better saves of the game, stopping a point-blank shot.

"I was just thinking I had to do good this tournament or Coach will kill me if I don't," Yokota said with a chuckle. "I just really wanted to have fun this tournament. I just wanted to prove that I could play.

"It felt pretty good. I hadn't played that good in a while."

Yokota has been anchoring a defense that has been remarkable in the tournament, as the Sailors are trying to repeat as the champions.

They have not allowed more than five goals in a game. They have outscored opponents, 61-17, in four games, including a 12-4 win over Santa Barbara Saturday morning to advance to the quarterfinals. Impressive, considering Newport Harbor is without two of its top players and lost 14 seniors to graduation. Also, Davy Jorth did not play Saturday after his right eye swelled from having it poked during a game Friday.

The Sailors hope to have Jorth back today and hope to continue their strong play. They'll face Murrieta Valley in a semifinal at 10 a.m. at Newport Harbor. Loyola plays against Long Beach Wilson in the other semifinal at 11 a.m. The championship is at 3 p.m.

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