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Kings of the pool

Corona del Mar shuts down Murrieta Valley at end to capture first CIF title in nine years.

November 20, 2010|By Matt Szabo, matthew.szabo@latimes.com
(Kent Treptow / Daily…)

IRVINE — On a rainy Saturday morning, the Corona del Mar High boys' water polo team spent time in the CdM gym.

The Sea Kings listened to a message from Spencer Pirdy and Bryan Riblett, two members of the program when CdM last won a CIF title in 2001.

Coach Barry O'Dea also had his players walk around to all four corners of the gym, with senior center Chase Watson reading off all the CIF title banners.

Finally, the Sea Kings reached the place where their banner would be placed.

"They were pretty pumped," O'Dea said. "We had a big morning."

The afternoon wasn't so bad either.

No. 2-seeded Corona del Mar captured its Orange County-record 13th CIF title after outlasting top-seeded Murrieta Valley, 11-10, in the Division II championship match at the Woollett Aquatics Center.

Junior Ben Zepfel scored the game-winning goal with less than three minutes left and senior Hayden Leach made a couple key steals in the final minute, helping the Sea Kings (23-8) emerge as champions in their first year back in Division II.

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"I really think our big turning point was Battle of the Bay," said senior driver Will Havercroft, who had two steals and a pair of field blocks in a strong CdM defensive effort. "I knew from that moment on that we were going to win CIF. I had no doubt in my mind."

Watson scored five goals, which tied him for the game-high with Murrieta Valley senior Eric Van de Mortal. He had two quick ones in the first quarter, one on a trick play on the first possession. The rest of the team dropped back on defense but Watson sprinted ahead, took the lengthy pass from senior goalie Bruce Bearer and scored as the shot clock expired.

"We wanted to loosen up right at the beginning of the game," said O'Dea, who celebrated after the game by doing a front flip into the pool. "We wanted to have a little fun … Bruce Bearer is one of the best passing goalies I've ever seen in my life. We call it 'dropping dimes,' and he dropped a dime there to Watson."

Watson scored again just over a minute later and CdM had a quick 2-0 lead with 5:13 left in the first quarter. But Murrieta Valley (28-4), making its sixth straight CIF finals appearance, never went away. The Nighthawks stayed close and took their first lead, at 9-8, midway through the third quarter on Jantz Johnson's strike.

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