Stevens saves Sailors

Boys' Water Polo

Junior scores on counterattack with 15 seconds left, helping Newport Harbor earn wild win over El Toro.

October 15, 2011|By Matt Szabo
(Courtesy of Doug…)

NEWPORT BEACH — The Newport Harbor High boys' water polo team fell behind for the first time midway through the fourth quarter.

The Sailors' three-goal halftime lead was long gone. They needed something to counter the momentum of visiting El Toro in Saturday afternoon's key nonleague game.

In fact, the Sailors waited until the waning seconds to deliver the counterpunch to knock out the Chargers.

It came, fittingly enough, on the counterattack.

Junior Dan Stevens scored with 15 seconds left as Newport Harbor won the wild game, 10-9, in a battle of CIF Southern Section Division I powers.

Stevens' second goal of the game came after a steal from senior Ryan Fowler with just less than 30 seconds to go. Stevens got a precise pass from fellow junior Preston Lee and turned, firing one past rapidly charging El Toro goalie Garrett Danner for the game-winner.

"On that last play I just swam really hard," Stevens said. "I saw Ryan steal the ball, and that kind of fired me up at the very end. I just swam hard and Preston gave me a great pass. I couldn't have asked for a better pass."


Stevens said he knew he would have to shoot quickly to beat Danner.

"He's a great goalie," said Stevens of Danner, who made nine saves. "He [charges out] all the time; I did my homework."

The Sailors (15-1), ranked No. 2 in Division I, felt like they passed a test after beating No. 4 El Toro (16-2). They survived one last scare when an El Toro shot at the buzzer skipped over the cage.

Saturday's game was the only possible meeting of the two teams until CIF.

"It's a great victory," Newport Harbor Coach Robert Lynn said. "After that win at the S&R Cup, it's another good step in the right direction."

Newport Harbor earned a 7-4 halftime lead. But El Toro, coming off a 10-8 overtime victory over Corona del Mar on Friday night that Lynn scouted, didn't look tired in the second half.

The Chargers took their first lead when Zach Nelson scored on a six-on-five with 4:11 left in the game, giving the Chargers an 8-7 advantage.

"We switched to a 'three drop' to get some cheap goals, and we did," El Toro Coach Don Stoll said. "We tried to spring some free counter goals and we did that. If we didn't get a goal, sometimes we got a kick-out, and that maybe gets us a goal on six-on-five. It does help us a little bit offensively, because once we get in the front court we're not as good, I don't think."

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