Newport Harbor boys water polo coach Ross Sinclair

Newport Harbor boys, Sinclair surprise at state tournament


NEWPORT BEACH Ross Sinclair knows some were surprised by the result Saturday at the California State High School Championships.

Just don’t count the new Newport Harbor boys water polo coach and his team among the jolted after a wild day in and out of the pool.

Day 1: Carlson returns to Los Al girls

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The Sailors upset third-seeded Cathedral Catholic of San Diego, 10-9, to reach the quarterfinals of the 48-team tournament. Sixth-seeded Loyola of Los Angeles blitzed host Newport Harbor, 14-6, in the evening quarterfinal – pushed back by lightning – but the Sailors remained positive about a momentous day at the summer’s biggest high school tournament.

Newport Harbor, after all, was the No. 2 seed in its group and features only two seniors.

“It was a great day,” Sinclair said after the quarterfinals. “For us to be in the top-eight, it’s a great experience from this point forward – use this opportunity to play the top teams and now really see where we’re at and see how much more work we have to do.”

An experienced Loyola team provided a blue-print. The Cubs used a strong press and counterattack to take 6-0 lead after the first period. Sinclair, hired in mid-April as the coach of his alma mater, wants the Sailors to play a similar way.

“Press and counter,” he said. “That’s the bread and butter of this program. That’s the way I was taught and that’s something we’re re-establishing.”

Loyola also featured 11 seniors, four left-handers and plenty of speed. Left-hander Mac Carey scored a match-high four goals while swift attacker Armen Deirmenjian added three. Center Luka Milicevic scored twice for the Cubs, who played without arguably their top player from last season, Marko Vavic, a sophomore in 2014.

“I think when they have all their pieces together, they’re going to crack that top-three (in Division 1),” Sinclair said of Loyola.

Newport Harbor reached the quarterfinals with a 10-9 victory earlier Saturday against Cathedral, the reigning open division champion in the San Diego Section.

Left-hander Cole Brosnan snapped a 9-9 tie with a breakaway goal with 1:23 left in the fourth after a short-handed steal and assist by Ben Morrison on a Cathedral power-play.

Brosnan finished with three goals as the Sailors pulled the upset to crack the top-eight.

“I’m sure a lot people were (surprised we made it) – we weren’t,” Sinclair said. “We got confidence. These boys have been training really hard. They all bought in.”

Morrison and goalie Joe Ferraro are the Sailors’ lone seniors. Morrison scored three goals against Loyola.

Sinclair started sophomores John Rankin, center Jackson Westerman and Jason Grew along with Morrison and juniors Brosnan and Nic Rimlinger in the field. Junior Ryan Hurst and sophomore Ryan Brosnan were key players off the bench.

“We still have a lot of work to do,” said Sinclair, who also guided Newport’s 18-and-under club team to a seventh-place finish at the Southern Pacific Zone’s qualifying for the upcoming Junior Olympics in Orange County.

“We’re competing and we’re young. Good little formula.”

Newport Harbor plays at Foothill at 9 a.m. in the fifth-place semifinals Sunday.

In another boys quarterfinal:

Mater Dei 15, Foothill 8: Lefty Luke Wyatt scored eight goals, including four in the fourth period, to lead the Monarchs at Newport Harbor. Mater Dei plays Loyola in the semifinals at 11 a.m. at Foothill.

Harvard-Westlake 14, Sacred Heart Prep 5: U.S. national team center Ben Hallock scored four goals to lead the defending champion at Foothill.

The anticipated Huntington Beach-Orange Lutheran quarterfinal Saturday was rescheduled for Sunday at 7 a.m. at Foothill because of lightning. The winner plays Harvard-Westlake in the semifinals.

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