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Mesa bound for playoffs

Boys' Water Polo

Mustangs defeat rival Estancia to remain undefeated at home, clinch CIF playoff berth.

October 26, 2011|By Matt Szabo
(Steven Georges…)

COSTA MESA — "Not in our house" is a term the Costa Mesa High boys' water polo team has used this season.

Now that they actually have a house, members of the Mustangs have done a masterful job protecting it.

They have not lost at home this season. They weren't about to start in the Battle for the Bell rivalry match.

Costa Mesa jumped ahead early and beat rival Estancia, 9-6, in an Orange Coast League match Wednesday at Costa Mesa High, clinching the third and final league spot into the CIF Southern Section Division III playoffs.

It's the Mustangs' first playoff appearance since 2008. Beating a rival to get there was just icing on the cake for Mesa (19-6, 3-2 in league), which eliminated Estancia (9-14, 2-3) from playoff contention.

"I mean, I could say a lot of stuff," said grinning senior Mesa goalie Mitchell Grandia, who had 11 saves and a pair of steals. "It feels great. It's been my goal since freshman year to go to CIF, and to finally beat them? I hadn't had a game in league where we'd beat them yet."

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Mesa did so Wednesday when it counted. A fast start helped. Coach Justin Taylor's Mustangs jumped out to a 4-1 lead midway through the second quarter, as senior James Lewis scored on the counterattack off a pass from Grandia.

The victory was definitely sweet to Lewis, whose three goals tied him for match-high honors with Estancia senior Brooks Watkins. In their first full season with their Olympic-sized 50-meter pool, the Mustangs were definitely motivated.

In front of a large and supportive home crowd, they won the bell game for the first time since that 2008 season. It was a much different story from last year, when Estancia blitzed Mesa, 16-2, as the Eagles went on to CIF.

"You play a water polo team that doesn't have a pool to practice in, that's like playing a football team that doesn't have a field to play on," Lewis said. "You kind of know what the result's going to be. Now that we have a pool, that's what the result is."

The Eagles pulled within two goals on three separate occasions in the second half. The last time it was their leading scorer, senior Paul Sugano-Dyson, drawing an exclusion. Sugano-Dyson then scored the goal himself with 6:08 left in the fourth quarter.

But less than a minute later, Costa Mesa junior Quan Nguyen had an answer when he fired an outside shot into the right corner. Lewis scored on a six-on-five with 1:04 left to up the Mustangs' lead to 9-5 before Sugano-Dyson scored at the final buzzer.

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