Yokota heating up for Newport Harbor

Daily Pilot High School Athlete of the Week

Goalie had 11 saves to help Sailors beat rival Corona del Mar in final of S&R Sport Cup.

October 14, 2011|By Matt Szabo
(Daily Pilot File…)

Eight years ago Koby Yokota made a cross-country trip that would, in some ways, change his life.

Yokota and his mother, Kelly Pedersen, moved from the East Coast to the West Coast.

They moved from one Newport to another. Newport, R.I. is a lot different than Newport Beach.

"I've made a lot of friends in the time I've been here, and I love how it's warm all the time," Yokota said. "But I also really miss the snow, and I love the cold. It could go either way."

Yokota now lives with his mom and step-dad, Jon. He said he still gets back east every few months to visit his father, Bob, who now lives in New Hampshire with three half-sisters.

But soon after Yokota settled in Southern California, something else happened that would change his life.

He started playing water polo.

Eventually he got a look as a goalie.


"They were just kind of like, 'Oh, you're kind of a big kid, why don't you try it out?'" Yokota recalled. "I went in and I blocked some, so they kept me in there. I've just been doing it ever since."

It's as simple as that for Yokota, all 6-foot-4 and 210 pounds of him. He's now a senior at Newport Harbor High.

Yokota's game matches that big frame. The Daily Pilot Athlete of the Week showed it last weekend at the S&R Sport Cup, where he made 11 saves in the championship match as Newport Harbor defeated rival Corona del Mar, 9-7, at Irvine's Woollett Aquatics Center.

It was Yokota's second-highest total of the season. In his first year as varsity starter, he continues to improve for the Sailors (14-1), ranked No. 2 in the CIF Southern Section Division I coaches' poll.

Coach Robert Lynn saw Yokota deny CdM early in that championship match. Twice in the first quarter the Sea Kings had six-on-five chances, but Yokota made the block each time. At halftime CdM had scored just one goal.

Both player and coach called it Yokota's best game of the two-day tournament.

"The first half he held them real well," Lynn said. "That took a lot of wind out of their sails."

For Yokota it has been a journey to this point, this moment where it's his time to shine on the varsity team. Three years ago he was part of a 14-and-under Newport Water Polo Foundation team, coached by Corey Delahunt, that won the San Diego County Cup. Yokota made the all-tournament team after helping NWPF defeat club powerhouse SoCal in sudden-death overtime in the tournament final.

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