Los Alamitos boys water polo sinks Santa Margarita to open South Coast Tournament

COSTA MESA — Los Alamitos’ boys water polo team might not be part of a high-profile league or have much recent experience in the Division 1 playoffs but the Griffins showed Thursday that their scrappy style can knock off a heavyweight.

Attacker Caleb Francisco and Nicholas Keane each scored five goals as the No. 9 Griffins defeated reigning Trinity League champion and No. 8 Santa Margarita 13-9 in a first-round match at the South Coast Tournament at Costa Mesa.

Los Alamitos (2-2) later fell to top-seeded Huntington Beach 16-7 in the second round but the Griffins showcased a strong press and dedicated counterattack against the Eagles (3-3).

The reigning Wave League champion Griffins forced at least five turnovers in each period and led for the final 21 minutes, 34 seconds of the match.

Francisco added three steals to help lead the defense. Junior goalie Tomas De Luca added six saves in his matchup against Santa Margarita goalie Zach Cwertnia (seven saves).

Los Alamitos led 9-4 at halftime before Santa Margarita trimmed its deficit to 9-7 in the third. But the Griffins called timeout and received a steal and breakaway goal from sophomore Cole Francisco to end the Eagles’ surge.

Keane then scored the first two goals of the fourth, converting a strike from center and power-play chance to give the Griffins a 12-7 lead.

Junior Nick Leung added two goals for Los Alamitos, which competed in the Division 2 playoffs in 2019 and 2018.

Nicholas Ohlson scored three goals to lead the Eagles while Spencer Averitt added four assists and played strong 2-meter defense.

In the quarterfinals Friday at 6 p.m., Huntington Beach will face Surf League foe Laguna Beach, which beat The Bishop’s 12-10 in the second round.

In other results, Mater Dei defeated Loyola 13-8 to advance to the quarterfinals to take on Trinity League rival Orange Lutheran, 14-8 winner against Oaks Christian.

Newport Harbor also reached the quarterfinals and will play host Harvard-Westlake.

Sacred Heart Prep and Cathedral Catholic will meet in the other quarterfinal at Foothill.

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Huntington Beach boys water polo holds off Mater Dei to win Santa Barbara Invitational

Huntington Beach’s boys water polo team showed Saturday that even if one of its best players doesn’t score, it can find a way to win a big match.

James Rozolis-Hill, Zach Bettino and Nikola Mirkovic each scored three goals to help pick up the scoring slack for Ryder Dodd as the top-ranked Oilers edge No. 2 Mater Dei 10-9 in the finals of the Santa Barbara Invitational.

The Oilers led 9-6 going into the fourth period and 10-8 in the final 4:16 in holding off Mater Dei at Santa Barbara High.

Huntington Beach (7-0) also overcame foul to capture the first major tournament of the season. Mirkovic fouled out in the fourth period while Dodd, Bettino and Matthew Morgan each picked up two fouls.

Emerging attacker Landon Akerstrom scored three goals to lead the Monarchs while Logan McCarroll and Carter Loth each added two. Nathan Tauscher made 12 saves in his duel with Huntington Beach’s Gabe Haddad.

More coverage to come.

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Huntington Beach’s offense stays hot in water polo win against Orange Lutheran

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The boys water polo season is young but Huntington Beach has already established its edict:

Outscore us if you can.

Orange County’s top-ranked team showcased its high-powered offense again Tuesday in an 18-11 victory against visiting No. 7 Orange Lutheran.

Sophomore attacker/defender Ryder Dodd and senior center/attacker James Rozolis-Hill each scored five goals and four other players found the net as Huntington Beach (3-0) pushed its goals-per-match average to 17.

Left-handed attacker Zach Bettino added three goals while Matt Morgan and Ethan Spoon each scored two. Hard-shooting Nikola Mirkovic scored once and also defended 2 meters with Dodd.

“Everybody can shoot, and we have a great goalie in cage,” Dodd said of senior Gabriel Haddad, who had eight saves against the sharp-shooting Lancers (2-1).

“It wasn’t easy at all (today). It required a lot of help from teammates on defense and then on the counter to score.”

Dodd did his part to spark the counterattack with three steals while playing plenty of 2-meter defense, a role he has picked for his brother Chase, now playing at UCLA.

“It’s big shoes to fill,” Dodd said of his brother, The Register’s player of the year last year and recent MPSF/Kap7 newcomer of the week.

The Oilers’ attack also showed its chemistry, converting 7 of 10 chances on the power-play. Rozolis-Hill drew four of the exclusions at center.

Dodd attributed the timing and passing to the Oilers commitment to play for the Vanguard club during the offseason.

“We played all summer,” he said. “There’s a lot of chemistry.”

Orange Lutheran stuck with the Oilers in the first half, trailing 8-7 at intermission and 9-8 early in the third period. But Huntington Beach went on a 3-0 run in the third, sparked by a shot in off the bottom of the crossbar by Bettino.

Bettino and Morgan added power-play goals and the Oilers found the separation they needed to pull away.

Leo Giessmann paced Orange Lutheran with four goals while Conor Brough and Caden Lidecis added two apiece. Goalie Donnie Robertson, a converted field player, made six saves.

“We did well,” Lancers coach Nestor Nunez said. “They have a phenomenal team. I’m really happy with the effort we put out and the composure that we kept.”

Brough and Giessmann each scored twice on perimeter strikes in the opening frame, which ended with the Oilers leading 7-5.

“First quarter was not an ideal quarter for us,” Dodd said of his team’s defense. “We still have a lot to work on in order to win CIF. But that game was a great way to really test us and see what we can pull out.”

The next challenge for Huntington Beach arrives this weekend at the Santa Barbara Invitational.

In another nonleague game:

Los Alamitos 14, Long Beach Wilson 11: Junior Nick Keane scored seven goals and Caleb Francisco added five to lead the host Griffins (1-1).


O.C. top 10 rankings, important dates

Top players to watch

Preview: Rising JSerra excited about its future

Newport Harbor starts fast, sinks The Bishop’s

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High school coaches: Starting Aug. 14, send OCVarsity your team’s scores, stats

Beginning Saturday, Aug. 14, the Register will begin publishing online the scores and stats of the fall sports for Orange County high school teams.

A coach or team representative can email the information from varsity-level games and events to preps@ocregister.com.

The Register will only publish information that is received in a timely manner and in a usable format. (See below for details.)

Note: The Register is no longer able to receive scores and stats via phone call.

* * *    * * *     * * *    * * *    * * *     * * *    * * *    * * *

Sending your team’s information to the Register:

1. the information needs to be sent the same day as the event;

2. send the final score from the event;

3. include stats or highlights for 2 players per team.

Example for stats: Canyon: Josh Dodson 28 points; Eddie Anderson 12 points, 11 steals.

Example for highlights: Canyon: Josh Dodson make game winning basket at the buzzer. Eddie Anderson set school record with 11 steals.

Please do not send images of score sheets or the complete results from a meet or event.

Football, baseball, softball, basketball, soccer, volleyball, lacrosse: Send final score and stats or highlights for 2 athletes per team.

Track, cross country, swimming, wrestling: Send final score and highlights for 2 athletes per team.

Tennis: Send final score, individual scores or highlights for 2 athletes per team.

Golf: Send final score, medalists or highlights for 2 athletes per team.

Questions or comments? Email preps@ocregister.com.

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Los Alamitos girls water polo coach Dave Carlson placed on administrative leave with Griffins

Veteran Los Alamitos High girls water polo coach Dave Carlson, a three-time Orange County coach of the year, has been placed on administrative leave from coaching the Griffins but remains a teacher at the school, he said on Wednesday, June 23.

“I’m in good spirits and confident that this will be resolved soon,” Carlson said.

Los Alamitos interim principal Gregg Stone told the school’s water polo families on June 13 that Carlson “is currently not a part of the Los Alamitos High School Water Polo coaching staff” as he shared information about summer camps. The e-mail didn’t not explain Carlson’s absence.

Los Alamitos Unified School District superintendent Andrew Pulver on Wednesday declined to address Carlson’s standing at Los Alamitos.

“We do not comment on personnel matters,” Pulver said in an e-mail. “If and when complaints are made regarding an employee, our (human resources) department handles the matter under our normal procedures.”

Regraded as one of the top water polo coaches in Orange County, Carlson guided Los Alamitos girls to a 3-6 overall record in the coronavirus-shortened season in March, including a 2-4 mark in the challenge Surf League. The squad didn’t feature a senior.

In 2019-20, Los Alamitos finished 14-13 overall and lost in the first round of the Division 1 playoffs to juggernaut Laguna Beach. The Griffins last won a league title in 2018 when they claimed a third consecutive Sunset crown.

Carlson’s girls teams have been regular members of the Orange County top-10 rankings during his tenure and traditionally played a demanding nonleague and tournament schedule against other Division 1 teams.

His notable alumni include two-time county player of the year Rachel Fattal, who on Wednesday was named to her second U.S. Olympic team, USC’s Bayley Weber, a former county player and athlete of the year, and Olympian Tim Hutten.

Carlson guided the Los Alamitos boys to a CIF-SS Division 2 title in 2004, a Masters crown in 2007 and the Marina girls to a Division 1 championship in 1998.

The uncertainty around the Los Alamitos girls program arrives as boys water polo coach Brent Danna has resigned after seven seasons to spend more time with his family. Stone announced the change in an e-mail June 16.

Danna said he will remain the boys swim coach, teach at the school and help with girls golf.

The Los Alamitos boys went 8-2 overall in March and won a third straight Wave League. The Griffins reached the second round of the Division 2 playoffs in 2019.

Please send water polo news to Dan Albano at dalbano@scng.com or @ocvarsityguy on Twitter

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Resilient Laguna Beach girls water polo beats Newport Harbor for Surf League title

NEWPORT BEACH Laguna Beach High’s girls water polo team initially envisioned a much different season than the one that will conclude in the coming days after just three weeks.

Returning 11 college-bound seniors off a CIF Division 1 championship team, the Breakers planned to contend for another title under the lights at Woollett Aquatics Center. The run appeared destined to be thrilling and dominating, with whispers of an undefeated season in the background.

The coronavirus pandemic painfully wiped away those aspirations but the healing for a resilient group continued on Wednesday, March 17.

The Breakers won their “playoff” by defeating host Newport Harbor 10-4 to capture the challenging Surf League title and improve to 6-0 overall.

Laguna Beach displayed many of its familiar traits. The Breakers played unselfishly with seven different players scoring. They played lock-down defense and bonded afterward like sisters.

Yes, the Breakers lost the chance to make CIF history but they’re leaving the spring with another prize.

“Appreciate the time we have together,” said senior Emma Lineback, who scored twice. “(The delayed season) kind of made me realize how I kind of took that long season and grind we had together for granted until this year and made me appreciate it so much more.”

Laguna Beach played with that type of urgency. After Newport Harbor’s Avery Montiel scored the first goal on the power-play about a minute into the opening period, the Breakers responded with a 5-0 run to take control.

Emerging junior Ava Houlahan started and capped the surge with goals but there were contributions throughout the lineup. Seniors Jessie Rose and Nicole Struss each recorded assists.

Lineback, the Register’s reigning player the year, highlighted the third period with a field block that sparked a counterattack that she punctuated with a goal for a 7-2 lead.

Senior Molly Renner also finished with two goals while seniors Rachael Carver, Emma Singer and Imani Clemons each one goal apiece. Struss, the reigning CIF player of the year, also helped force two penalty shots with her strong play around the cage.

Laguna Beach goalie Lauren Schneider anchored a defense that allowed only two natural goals by making eight saves, including one against a penalty shot. The sophomore also scored a goal in the fourth period on a full-court shot against a defense that focused on the counterattack.

Schneider marveled at the strength of the seniors afterward. She the group has “accepted” not having CIF and remains united.

“They’re awesome to look up to every day,” she said. “Just how close they are. They grew up together. Even the ones that came from different cities, they welcome them so much. And we’re always just hanging out together, so they’re really close.”

Schneider said Coach Ethan Damato assisted the healing with several “heartfelt” talks to the team, encouraging the players to focus on controlling what they can.

“It was hard at the beginning,” she said. “(The pandemic) isn’t under our control. What we can control, we’re going to control.”

The Breakers did just that again Wednesday.

Newport Harbor goalie Anne Reed made six saves, including a penalty, while Morgan Netherton recorded two goals and an assist.

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Santa Margarita boys, girls water polo edge Mater Dei in sudden-death overtime

SANTA ANA Santa Margarita’s water polo teams edged rival Mater Dei in sudden-death overtime not once but twice on Tuesday, March 16.

The Eagles’ girls rallied to beat the host Monarchs 8-7 in double sudden-death overtime while the boys followed in the same pool with a 10-9 victory early in the first sudden-death period.

Santa Margarita’s boys (5-0, 5-0) and girls (4-0, 3-0) teams both clinched at least a share of Trinity League championships, a coveted accomplishment any year but even more so with the pandemic wiping away the postseason.

The boys match delivered a playoff-like celebration by Santa Margarita, which clinched its first league title since 2001. Senior Ben Kirshon scored the winner 40 seconds into sudden-death overtime, taking a cross pass from senior Marko Maramica on a counterattack and firing a near-side shot in off the top of the cross bar.

“Our school hasn’t won this league in over 20 years so just to get the win on our senior season was really awesome,” said Kirshon, who finished with a match-high five goals.

What a finish for ⁦@smchs_bwp🤽‍♂️💦💯@ocvarsitypic.twitter.com/SGxHlhijlo

— Dan Albano (@ocvarsityguy) March 17, 2021

Maramica finished with six assists but he and Kirshon credited senior teammate Speedy Laster for helping set up the winning play.

“I saw Speedy screening Ben’s guy,” Maramica said. “Ben found the open water, popped up and I saw him weak (side) and just gave him the ball.”

The counterattack came after Mater Dei’s Ryan McManigal won his fifth consecutive sprint to open sudden-death overtime, leading the Monarchs to call timeout. Mater Dei isolated center Grant Loth at center but fired a shot that blasted off the crossbar and slightly off goalie Zach Cwertnia’s head before floating to the side off the cage.

Cwertina, a junior, tossed the outlet pass to the center of the pool for Laster, who passed to the Maramica on the wing before quickly driving toward to 2 meters to draw the defense and set the screen to free Kirshon on the weak-side wing.

Laster scored once and helped anchor the Eagles’ defense with three field blocks against the Monarchs’ power-play, which finished 4 for 9.

The UCLA-bound Loth drew at least four exclusions and scored once against a sagging Eagles’ defense. Senior Clay Kaneko paced Mater Dei with four goals while goalie sophomore goalie Nathan Tauscher led the defense with 14 saves.

In the girls game, Camille Mras scored on a skip-shot in the final seconds of the second sudden-death overtime off a pass from Carly McMurray to lift Santa Margarita to an 8-7 victory.

Mras, McMurray and Ruby Hodge each scored twice for the Eagles, who their second consecutive sudden-death overtime match in the Trinity League. They edged Orange Lutheran last week.

“This year,” coach Brian Weathersby said, “our team is mentally tough. They came back and fighting.”

Santa Margarita’s boys and girls close the season later this week with matches against Servite and Rosar, respectively. The girls can become the first outright league champion in the league since Mater Dei in 2017-2018.

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Santa Margarita girls water polo edges Orange Lutheran in sudden-death overtime

Ella Schneider scored on a penalty shot drawn by Honnie Vandeweghe early in sudden-death overtime Thursday, March 11 to lift Santa Margarita High’s girls water polo team past visiting Orange Lutheran 10-9 in the Trinity League.

The USC-committed Vandeweghe helped cap a physical match by drawing the penalty against the Lancers’ goalie.

Schneider, a junior, paced the Eagles (3-0, 2-0) with five goals. Vandeweghe scored once and added two assists and three steals.

Santa Margarita goalie Izzy Rosensitto finished with eight saves.

The scored was tied 7-7 after regulation. Santa Margarita’s Camille Mras, Carly McMurray and Natasha Kieckhafer each scored in overtime.

Orange Lutheran, which beat host Mater Dei in overtime on Tuesday, led 5-3 going into the fourth period. Santa Margarita takes on Mater Dei on Tuesday.

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Huntington Beach boys water polo beats Newport Harbor in league for the first time since ’16

NEWPORT BEACH Some of the chatter going into the coronavirus-shortened water polo season pegged the Huntington Beach High boys as the best squad in Orange County.

The Oilers provided support for that claim on Wednesday, March 10.

Huntington Beach piled up six goals in the first period, never trailed and became the first Orange County team since 2017 to beat host Newport Harbor in a 17-11 triumph in the Surf League.

The past two seasons, Harvard-Westlake has mostly been the only school to defeat Newport Harbor but the Oilers accomplished it in impressive fashion Wednesday.

“It’s a big one for us,” Huntington Beach coach Sasa Branisavljevic said. “We are still growing and learning, and we want to get even better than this but to beat Newport at home, we’ve been waiting for it for a long time.”

The last county team to sink the Sailors was Mater Dei during the 2017 postseason. The Oilers also beat Newport Harbor that fall at the South Coast Tournament but not in league. Huntington Beach’s last league victory against the Sailors came from its 2016 team, the best in school history and CIF-SS Division 1 runner-up that fall.

Huntington Beach (2-0, 2-0) racked up the goals by balancing a swift counterattack with timely production from center.

Freshman Ryder Dodd paced the Oilers with six goals, including three on the counterattack. He also saved a goal late in the third period by sprinting behind goalie Gabe Haddad to grab a deflected shot before it floated into the cage.

Dodd’s UCLA-bound brother Chase added three goals but fueled the 2-meter attack led with several outstanding entry passes into center en route to three assists.

Senior center Tyler Padua scored one goal and drew four exclusions. Center James Rozolis-Hill didn’t play because of precautionary reasons, Branisavljevic said, but Ethan Spoon came off the bench to score from set.

Emerging left-hander sophomore Zach Bettino added four goals, including two in the opening period, while Hadded finished with 10 saves.

Chase Dodd credited his team’s counterattack and mentality for the victory.

“Probably the constant counterattack all four quarters,” he said. “They actually played really, really well on the counter defense but we just kept doing it.”

Chase Dodd added that his team viewed the match as an opportunity not to be wasted.

“We’re fortunate we actually get the season,” the senior said. “For the past year, we never knew we were going to have a season. If it’s just a short, six games, we really want to make the most out of it.”

UCLA-bound center Eli Liechty led Newport with four goals and drew three penalty shots in the opening frame. The Sailors converted two of their four penalty shots in the game.

Newport Harbor coach Ross Sinclair said fitness was a factor for his squad, which beat rival Harvard-Westlake on Monday. “We came off a good win on Monday, (and) had a hard practice yesterday,” he said. “It’s hard to back that up when you don’t train for 11 1/2 months consistently.”

The teams will play the second-round of the league on March 19 at Newport Harbor. The Sailors face another tough non-league foe Saturday with Loyola. “We’re just excited to play,” Sinclair said.

End of 3rd: HB 11, Newport 8 on strength of this extra man goal pic.twitter.com/u2FvmSylBB

— Dan Albano (@ocvarsityguy) March 11, 2021

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Mater Dei boys water polo delivers classic performance to sink Orange Lutheran

One defender after another stretched an arm high to swat away a shot attempt. The man-advantage hummed at an efficient clip. And Grant Loth controlled the tempest waters at 2 meters.

Mater Dei’s boys water polo team showed Tuesday night, March 9 that it has regained many of the traits that made it a seven-time CIF-Southern Section champion.

The Monarchs played strong defense, shared the ball on the power play and attacked from center in a 14-7 victory against visiting Orange Lutheran to improve to 2-0 in the Trinity League. Mater Dei also beat JSerra 14-7 last week in its league opener.

The UCLA-bound Loth paced the Monarchs with seven goals, including two even-strength strikes from set and four on the power-play. The Monarchs finished 7 for 8 with the extra defender but also racked up 10 field blocks on defense.

The COVID-shortened season might be ending soon but the Monarchs appear on their way to making a point under third-year coach Brian Anderson.

“This is a good team,” he said. “We rebuilt Mater Dei.”

End of 1st: ⁦@mdboyswaterpolo⁩ 4 ⁦@OLuWaterPolo⁩ 1 ⁦@ocvarsitypic.twitter.com/18q1B1JnES

— Dan Albano (@ocvarsityguy) March 10, 2021

Last season, the Monarchs lost in the first round of the Division 1 playoffs to eventual champion Harvard-Westlake but look much improved. They feature three strong juniors in attacker Logan McCarroll, defender Luke Redoutey and sprinter Ryan McManigal.

McManigal recorded two goals and three field blocks, including a thumping stuff at the end of the third period against the Lancers’ power-play. Orange Lutheran went 4 for 10 on the man-advantage.

Attacker Vince Merk, another promising junior, also collected three field blocks, a goal and two assists.

Luth was backed up at center by his sophomore brother Carter, who scored twice off the bench.

Mater Dei sophomore goalie Nathan Tauscher made eight saves to keep up with Orange Lutheran standout senior Brennis Lidecis, who had nine in three periods, including a penalty block against McCarroll.

“If we play as a team, we’ll take the W,” Grant Loth said. “We want to make the best of every moment. We want to come out strong, go up right away and put the pressure on.”

Mater Dei’s goal of capturing the Trinity League title will encounter another major test Tuesday against visiting Santa Margarita. The Eagles beat JSerra 20-3 in another match Tuesday.

Senior center Andrew Barnuevo scored three goals to lead Orange Lutheran.

In the girls match, Orange Lutheran edged Mater Dei 13-11 in overtime.

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