CORONA DEL MAR — A CIF Southern Section girls' water polo title is not won in July, but the members of the Newport Harbor girls' water polo team feel comfortable with the pieces they have in place.
The defending Division 1 champions are expected to return four starters in the winter. On Saturday at Corona del Mar High, they showed that they already appear to be on the same page.
Newport Harbor advanced to the semifinals of the California State High School Championships, beating San Clemente, 12-4. Earlier in the day, the Sailors got by San Ramon Valley, 13-2.
Corona del Mar also advanced to the semifinals by posting two wins. The Sea Kings defeated Carlsbad, 16-7, before topping Murrieta Valley, 13-5, in the quarterfinals.
Defending champion CdM plays El Toro in the first semifinal at 10 a.m. Sunday, back at CdM. Newport Harbor plays Santa Barbara in the second semifinal at 11 a.m.
The tournament championship is scheduled for 3 p.m., also at CdM.
Newport Harbor had few problems against San Clemente, taking a 5-1 lead after the first quarter. Ciera Dixon scored twice in the frame, and fellow incoming seniors Carly Christian, Elissia Schilling and Carolyn Smith also scored. Christian, Avery Peterson and Schilling each had nice assists on the goals to help Newport Harbor get going.
"Good team effort," Newport Coach Bill Barnett said. "I think, as a team, we're playing really well. The girls are really finding each other. They know what each of them can do. I think it comes with a lot of practice."
Christian led Newport Harbor with three goals, and Schilling and Dixon had two each. Peterson, Smith, Christina O'Beck, Rachel Whitelegge and Heidi Fults also scored for Newport Harbor. Goalie Cleo Harrington made four saves and had two steals.
"I feel like this summer we've been playing really well together," said Peterson, who added a game-high five steals. "We know exactly what each other's strengths and weaknesses are. We're actually playing great with each other, which is really exciting for us during the summer. We have a long way to go, to improve even, which is fun to know."
The semifinal match against Santa Barbara should also be fun. Last weekend at the Santa Barbara Summer Tournament of Champions, Peterson said the Sailors lost a late lead before falling to the Dons, 8-6, in a semifinal match. Newport Harbor went on two beat CdM in sudden-death overtime in the third-place match.
"We had a lead all the way up until the fourth quarter [against Santa Barbara], a three-goal lead, then we kind of lost it," Peterson said. "We need to work on keeping our lead up if we get one. We really want to come out hard and keep the lead, and hopefully work together like we did today."
Corona del Mar also worked together — with two new additions. Two Greek twin sisters, Ioanna and Stephanie Haralabidis, are playing with CdM this summer. They are staying with incoming junior Marina Coskinas, who grew up with the Haralabidis sisters in Greece.
The Haralabidis sisters put on a show against Murrieta Valley. Stephanie had game-high totals of five goals and five steals. Ioanna added two goals, as did incoming senior Morgan Stewart and incoming freshman Maddie Musselman, who has just rejoined the team after competing with the Cadet national team.
CdM is still missing arguably its two best returners, incoming seniors Cassidy Papa and Ally McCormick. Papa is finishing up playing with the U.S. Youth National team in Hungary this weekend, while McCormick has not been training with CdM in the high school offseason.
The Sea Kings still looked strong Saturday. Annie Mortimer and Grace Morgan added goals, and Genevieve Weed and Bobbi Hoose had two steals each. Weed's twin sister Erica, CdM's team captain, made nine saves in goal.
"I think we played well," Coskinas said. "We worked really hard on defense, and I feel like our press is working well. I feel like we really clicked in the Santa Barbara tournament, and it's really showing this tournament."
CdM Coach Sam Bailey agreed with that sentiment. He also said having the Haralabidis sisters, who have international playing experience, has been beneficial.
"It's been awesome," Bailey said. "They're incredible people, super-fun to be around. They help to create a fun dynamic, fun environment for the team, but at the same time, they bring a level of intensity that is important for any team to be successful."
Newport Harbor's boys also advanced to the semifinals of the California State High School Championships. Newport defeated Dana Hills, 8-5, in a quarterfinal match at Foothill High. Earlier Saturday, Newport got past El Toro, 10-8.
The Sailors received multiple goals from Andrew Silvers, Curtis Fink, Dan Stevens, Henry McNamara, Mitchell Mendoza, Preston Lee and Ryan Warde.
Newport Harbor plays Sacred Heart Prep at 10 a.m. Sunday back at Foothill in a semifinal match. The other semifinal pits Loyola against Mater Dei. The boys' title match is at 3 p.m. Sunday, at Foothill.
Corona del Mar's boys advanced to the quarterfinals before losing to Sacred Heart, 9-5. CdM plays Dana Hills in a fifth-place semifinal at 8 a.m. Sunday, at Foothill.