SANTA ANA — Coach Barry O'Dea had been away from the Corona del Mar High boys' water polo team for the past week, and it was easy to understand why.
Family comes first. O'Dea went to Ireland for the funeral of his aunt.
"It's my dad's last sister who was alive in Ireland," said O'Dea, who left the country Oct. 26 in the middle of the Memorial Cup in San Jose and returned late Friday night. "I was representing my family."
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O'Dea missed four of the Sea Kings' games, returning in time for the one at powerhouse Mater Dei, the three-time defending CIF Southern Section Division 1 champion that carried a CIF record 101-game winning streak.
Make it 102 straight wins after Saturday night. Even the luck of the Irish wouldn't be nearly enough to stop the Monarchs.
Senior captain James Walters and junior Nick Silvers — both Newport Beach residents — each scored four goals as Mater Dei blasted CdM, 15-3, in the nonleague game.
"I'm happy, because we had a really bad game against Loyola," Mater Dei Coach Chris Segesman said, referring to Mater Dei's 11-6 win on the road on Tuesday. " We weren't really mentally and physically ready to roll. Tonight, I thought we were focused. The guys did a really good job of dictating the tempo of the game. We jumped on them, and we played ball-control. It was a good game overall for us, at this point of the season."
Senior Kent Inoue scored three goals for Mater Dei (22-0), the top-ranked team in Division 1. Newport Beach resident Jeff O'Brien, a senior, scored twice, as did junior Matt Payne. Spencer Carroll, Neil LeVecke, Peter Seidner, Connor Talleur and Luke Wyatt are the other Newport-Mesa residents who play on Mater Dei, making eight in all.
Walters, a USC commit, led everyone with three steals. The Monarchs' other USC commit, 6-foot-8 senior goalkeeper McQuin Baron, made 13 saves. He recorded five assists in the first half as well, throwing the ball the length of the pool to set up scoring opportunities.
"He's a special player," Segesman said. "Not only is he a great goalie, but he throws such a nice outlet pass ... he's a huge weapon for us feeding our counterattack, which is our bread and butter."
The Monarchs built a 5-0 lead after a quarter and a 10-0 halftime lead over CdM (15-11), ranked No. 9 in Division 1. For all of the Sea Kings, save senior captain Matt Sherburne, it was their first time playing in a varsity game against powerhouse Mater Dei.
"We weren't being patient with the ball and we were making bad shots," said another CdM senior captain, Charlie Rodosky, who scored twice in the second half. "None of us have ever played against them, because we weren't really a varsity team last year. We came out and everyone was a little intimidated, whether they wanted to be or not. It took a half to realize that they weren't that much better than us. [O'Dea] just kind of told us that, and we all bought into it and came out stronger."
CdM's other captains are senior defender Ryan Greenwald, who recently committed to Johns Hopkins University, and junior Jack Trush. Trush had a steal and drew a five-meter penalty shot Saturday. Senior goalkeeper Ryan Hamm also played well for the Sea Kings, making 12 saves and adding a pair of steals.
Sophomore center Ben Brooks scored the Sea Kings' last goal in the final minute of the game, executing an impressive power move to score at two meters.
"This is a good education for them," O'Dea said of his squad. "That's a really good team that Mater Dei's got. I'm not going to take anything away from that. They play hard, they play well and they use their strengths extremely well. I was happier with the second half, obviously, but we've been playing pretty well."
Mater Dei plays four games next week as it prepares to defend its Division 1 title, starting with Edison on Monday. Segesman said he likes to back-load the schedule to get ready for CIF.
CdM has just one game next week, Tuesday at Northwood, but that's a huge one. Northwood shocked the Sea Kings, 11-10, in a Pacific Coast League game earlier this season, handing CdM its first league loss since 2003.
Northwood (9-0 in league) has already clinched a share of the league title. For CdM (8-1 in league) to do the same, it needs to win Tuesday in the league finale.
CdM has won at least a share of 14 straight Pacific Coast League titles.
"It hurt a lot when we lost," Rodosky said. "All of the people before us put in so much work to win league games for eight years. It felt pretty disappointing to kind of blow that, but it just makes us way more hungry to come back and beat them next time."
"We're fired up. We know we can win ... We're going to come out like we did in the fourth quarter against them last time, which worked well for us. We're going to bring it the whole game next time, [with a] strong counterattack."