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Boys' Water Polo: 5 in a row for Tars

Newport Harbor wins showdown with HB to claim fifth straight league title, as CIF Division 1 playoffs loom.

November 06, 2013|By Matt Szabo
  • Newport Harbor High's Mitchell Mendoza, right, scores on Huntington Beach's Gavin Wuerfel (13) during the first half in a Sunset League match on Wednesday in Newport Beach.
Newport Harbor High's Mitchell Mendoza, right,… (KEVIN CHANG / Daily…)

Newport Harbor High senior Luca Cupido is the water polo equivalent of Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry.

Fans watch Cupido, the exuberant transfer from Italy, closely every time he gets the ball. Don't take your eyes off him, or you might miss what he will do next.

What he did at the end of Wednesday night's game was score on a crazy backhand skip shot goal from mid-tank at the buzzer.

"That was ridiculous," sophomore teammate Ben Morrison said. "That was insane. That's Luca's game right there, just crazy shots coming out of nowhere."

It perhaps put a proper cap on the huge game for the Sunset League title. The Sailors claim it after beating second-place Huntington Beach, 13-7.

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It's Newport Harbor's fifth straight league title, and it's now more than likely that the Sailors (21-4, 5-0 in league) will receive the No. 3 seed for the CIF Southern Section Division 1 playoffs that begin next week.

The Cal-bound Cupido led everyone with five goals, including the last three of the game for Newport Harbor. But don't think for a second that the Sailors are a one-man team.

"One-man teams don't finish third position [in CIF]," Coach Robert Lynn said. "We have a whole team that got us to where we are now, and it's going to take all of us to beat the No. 2 team [Harvard-Westlake]."

Everyone seemed to come together Wednesday night. Senior goalkeeper Massimo Navarretta, who has been battling a groin injury, made 13 saves, including a big one on a one-on-nobody in the final two minutes.

Stanford-bound senior lefty Mitchell Mendoza had three goals and a couple of nice assists. Morrison scored twice, and played stellar set defense with freshman Ryan Hurst.

Senior center K.J. Kelley and juniors Clay Davison and Jack Mooers added goals for Newport Harbor, while junior center Chad Sheldon drew an exclusion and made a field block. The Sailors took a 3-1 lead after a quarter and never looked back, giving the Oilers (20-9, 4-1) their only league loss.

"We played really good defense," Mendoza said. "A lot of times, they post up, and we just played good post up [defense]. Even when we got ejections, I still feel like we played good five-man defense, which was important. If you don't do that, you're probably going to lose the game."

Lynn said having Morrison and Hurst as set guards was big. The Oilers, who were led by Ethan Wojciechowski with three goals and Skyler Munatones and James Vlachonassios with two each, scored nearly all of their goals from the outside.

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