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Daily Pilot Girls' Water Polo Dream Team: Papa, Harrington led way

CdM senior attacker, Newport Harbor junior goalie are Co-Newport Mesa Players of Year, after taking respective teams back to CIF title match.

April 04, 2013|By Matt Szabo
  • Newport Harbor High goalie Cleo Harrington, left, and Corona del Mar High senior Cassidy Papa are Co-Players of the Year for the Daily Pilot Girls' Water Polo Dream Team.
Newport Harbor High goalie Cleo Harrington, left, and… (Don Leach, Daily…)

When Newport Harbor High hosted a men's water polo pre-Olympic showcase last May, the pool deck was absolutely packed.

Many felt that it was an appropriate place to watch some world-class water polo. One of those people was former Corona del Mar and current Stanford men's coach John Vargas.

"Orange County, specifically Newport Beach, is the mecca of water polo in the United States," Vargas said to the Daily Pilot at the time. "You should expect something like this to happen here."

The point was again proven this past winter. What happened in Newport Beach was simply remarkable. The CdM and Newport Harbor girls' water polo teams had their ups and downs, yet they somehow ended up meeting in the CIF Southern Section Division 1 title match for the second straight year.

Stanford-bound CdM senior Cassidy Papa was a co-captain and natural leader for the Sea Kings. Her passion and guidance for her team ended up paying off big-time on that night in late February at Woollett Aquatics Center, as she helped CdM brush off a series of title-match disappointments and win its first Division 1 title over Newport, 6-5.

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It wasn't easy to dethrone the Sailors. They played with a lot of confidence at the end of the season as well, including a huge win over top-seeded Santa Barbara in the semifinals. A big part of that was their junior goalie, Cleo Harrington. If she wasn't the top goalie in CIF, she was certainly in the discussion, and she consistently raised her level of play in the most important games.

The Sea Kings and Sailors couldn't share the Division 1 title. But because of their skill and leadership, Papa and Harrington share the Newport-Mesa Dream Team Player of the Year award for 2012-13.

For Papa, a four-year varsity starter, it was an interesting season. With the Sea Kings adding transfers Stephania and Ioanna Haralabidis from Greece, she saw her scoring drop to 51 goals. Yet the Pacific Coast League and Division 1 MVP always found a way to make a difference. She dished out a team-best 53 assists and added 31 steals. She guarded at two meters when she had to do so. And her vocal leadership in the water was never in question. When she missed two games at the start of the season, it was because she was playing for Team USA at the FINA Youth World Championships in Australia, where Papa also was a team captain.

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