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TEXT BY DAN ALBANO, OCVARSITY.COM
Foothill's two-time defending CIF-SS Division 2 championship boys water polo team has been placed i Division 1 next season.

5 observations on new boys water polo playoff groupings

OCVARSITY.COM

Call it the champions division.

That’s the vibe of re-configured Division 1 in CIF-Southern Section boys water polo now that two-time defending Division 2 champion Foothill, South Coast League kingpin Dana Hills and two-time defending Division 4 champion Righetti of Santa Maria have joined the 16-team playoff grouping atop the premier high school conference in America.

The changes for the 2016 fall season, announced Friday afternoon by the section, are part of a new competitive equity model that uses computer power-rankings.

RELATED: New water polo divisions by schools

Foothill, Dana Hills, Righetti and four-time section champion Mira Costa now belong to the Division 1 waters patrolled by defending champion Mater Dei and Harvard-Westlake and contenders such as Huntington Beach, Loyola and Orange Lutheran.

“I knew it was coming,” said Dana Hills coach Matt Rosa, whose Dolphins fell to Foothill in sudden-death overtime in the Division 2 final last fall. “We’re going to do our best.”

Dana Hills and Foothill have competed in Division 1 before but Righetti will make its Division 1 debut in the fall.

Here are five observations on the new playoff groups:

1. Prepare to hear more from the private versus public debate in Division 1.

In two of the past three seasons, three of the four semifinalists in Division 1 have been the private trio Mater Dei, Harvard-Westlake and Loyola. Orange Lutheran has now emerged as the fourth private powerhouse and boasts the dynamic duo of Ash Molthen and Hannes Daube.

The private-public debate re-surfaced last summer and returned with Friday's announcement.

“I’d love to see an all-private division,” Rosa said. “Get the top public schools battle and let us battle it out.”

Trinity League schools Servite and Santa Margarita slipped to Division 2 while St. John Bosco fell to Division 4.

2. El Toro surprised by making the cut to Division 1.

Count Rosa among those caught off guard. He also also was surprised that Damien moved to the top division while Agoura dropped in Division 2.

Agoura intrigues since it beat JSerra in the first round of the Division 1 playoffs last season and was upset as a league champion by visiting Newport Harbor in the first round in 2014.

Before that, Agoura won four consecutive CIF titles -- some in dominating fashion -- between Division 2 and 4.

El Toro is a five-time Division 1 champion and beat Dana Hills at the recent Regency tournament but last won a Division 1 playoff game in 2011. But it was Los Osos with the lowest power-ranking of the new teams in Division 1.

All eight of the quarterfinalists last season in Division 2 moved to Division 1.

3. Segerstrom makes quite the leap to Division 3. The sixth-year program won Division 6 last season and owns a Division 7 crown from 2013. “Jikes,” Segerstrom coach Tim Fredericksen said upon hearing his program's promotion. “We like a challenge ... (but) we thought we’d be in Division 4.”

Division 3 also includes reigning Division 5 champion Redlands East Valley and 2014 Division 5 champion Claremont.

Ocean View, the Jaguars’ rival in the Golden West League, sticks in Division 6.

Division 7 champion Rio Mesa jumped to Division 4.

4. Costa Mesa stays in Division 3. The Mustangs are on the rise under the Serrano brothers but endured their share of misplacement in the old playoff system. They likely hoped for at least one lower division but should again be competitive.

Estancia, the city rival for Costa Mesa, was placed in Division 6.

5. There’s a lot to notice in Division 3. The group also includes newcomers Edison, Esperanza and Fountain Valley along with Troy, improving Aliso Niguel and traditional power San Clemente.

Defending Division 3 champion Murrieta Valley, along with Capo Valley and Laguna Beach, travels to Division 2 as the highest-ranked team. Murrieta Valley narrowly finished behind for Los Osos for the final spot in Division 1.

And for the curious, Los Osos edged Murrieta Valley, 9-7, and, 8-7, last season.


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