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Sea Kings storm back

Boys' Water Polo

Top-ranked Corona del Mar overcomes a 4-0 deficit to shut down Long Beach Wilson in overtime to win home opener.

September 20, 2011|By Matt Szabo
(Scott Smeltzer…)

CORONA DEL MAR — For the first time in recent memory, the Corona del Mar High boys' water polo team held a 50-50 raffle at Tuesday's key nonleague game against Long Beach Wilson.

CdM team parent Jeff Ong won the $225 prize. Ong's pockets might have been fatter, but he was still as nervous as anyone else throughout the game.

At the start, CdM's chances of winning its home opener looked considerably less than 50-50. But the Sea Kings battled back to claim a wild 10-7 overtime victory over the Bruins in a matchup of the top two teams in the CIF Southern Section Division II coaches' poll.

Top-ranked Corona del Mar (2-0) is the defending CIF champion, but returns with a bunch of new players after nearly every contributor from last year's team graduated. The biggest piece was center Chase Watson, the Newport-Mesa Player of the Year who's now at USC. But the Sea Kings still appear to be fine at two meters.

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Senior Ben Zepfel scored a game-high five goals in Tuesday's contest. He also had four steals and drew plenty of Wilson kickouts at set.

"It's obviously pretty big shoes to fill, both literally and metaphorically," said a smiling Zepfel. "But I don't really have the same playing style as Chase, because I'm not 6-foot-8, 250 pounds. I'm 6-1, 200. I've gotten a lot of what I do from [CdM assistant and U.S. men's national team player] Ryan Bailey, actually. He has a similar playing style to me. He's a huge guy, but when he plays on the national team, he's not the biggest guy out there. What he teaches me is very applicable to my game."

Zepfel helped CdM apply itself too and rally from a 4-0 opening-quarter deficit against Wilson (1-2). The Bruins were countering hard at the outset and taking advantage of ill-advised CdM shots. First it was Jake Davis, then Brock Gordon open on the counter as Wilson took the four-goal lead.

Corona del Mar drew back within striking distance by the time the quarter ended, as senior Ari Marks scored from about seven meters and Zepfel had a strong move at two meters to cut the deficit in half.

"We're a very young team, and we came out with a lot of nerves," CdM senior Charlie Howarth said. "It took us a little bit to get settled into our system, the style of play that we want to be playing. Once we were able to kind of get our heads on straight and figure out our defensive strategy and our offensive strategy, we were able to put the game in our control. We started to take over from there."

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