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Northwood boys water polo off to strong start

Irvine Scene

Timberwolves have won two of first three games with Coach Murin stressing defense.

September 15, 2012|By Joe Haakenson

If there is one aspect (defense) that would be considered key (defense) to the success (defense) of this year's boys' water polo team (defense) at Northwood High school, the answer is clear.

Ask first-year coach Chris Murin, and you hear it over and over again.

That's right, it's defense.

Northwood is off to a good start to the season, winning two of its first three games. Murin has come to Northwood to coach both the boys' and girls' teams after coaching previously at Palos Verdes High, and he immediately went to work to change things around, focusing on defense and the counter attack.

"We want to be a defense-oriented team," said Murin, 38, who guided the Palos Verdes boys to a CIF Southern Section Division 4 title in 2009 and the PV girls to a CIF Division 2 title in 2010. "So we spend a lot of time talking technical defense, going from press to a zone. Those are things we're working on."

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But that's not all. Northwood is ranked No. 10 in Orange County and the competition runs deep. To win in this area, a team needs to play well in every aspect of the game.

"Communication is a big factor with this group of kids," Murin said. "We're working on communication, whether that be field players or from the goalie, so the game becomes easier. We're also trying to implement a counter-attack system, and we're working on our five-man defense quite a bit as well, and on our 6-on-5 offense. Those four areas we'll continue to work on."

Murin has the players to do it. Northwood opened the season with an 18-9 win over Aliso Niguel. John Hartshorne and Billy Monjay each scored five goals to lead the offense, and Tim Shaw had six saves in goal.

The Timberwolves also won their last game, 10-4, over Villa Park. Monjay and RJ Simmons each scored four goals and Shaw had nine saves.

In between, Northwood lost to highly-regarded Los Alamitos, 10-5, despite 14 saves by Shaw.

"I like the way we played against Los Alamitos," Murin said. "I thought it was a much closer game than the score indicated. Unfortunately in the third quarter we lost our two-meter hole set (Jason Lee) to a cut just below his left eye.

"We lost a little bit of momentum at that time and we didn't have the offensive second half that I wanted. But I think that we can compete with the No. 4-ranked team in CIF Division 1, so early in the year I'm pretty happy with the results so far."

Monjay leads the team in scoring through three games and is what Murin called the team's "sharpshooter."

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