Fryer: Dana Hills water polo starting strong


A team that begins the season with optimism needs proof to verify that optimism.

The Dana Hills boys water polo team got that proof this week.

The Dolphins beat El Toro, 12-11, for the first time in the 10 years that Matt Rosa has been coaching them.

Two years ago, Dana Hills played El Toro on El Toro's senior day. On senior days, seniors who are not starters or don't play a lot get the chance to start and/or play a lot. In that one, Dana Hills had a three-goal lead in the first quarter, a two-goal lead in the fourth but lost in overtime.

"That was my second best team here at Dana," Rosa said. "This team this year is my best team."

Dana Hills had a record of 11-5 after Thursday's nonleague loss to Laguna Beach. The Dolphins are 2-0 and in sole possession of first place in the five-team South Coast League that El Toro has frequently dominated.

If Rosa had to name a team most valuable player today, it would be senior Sam Pheil. The left-handed Pheil comes from a water polo family, has a couple of brothers on the UC Irvine team and is deciding between going to Stanford, where he has been accepted, or joining his siblings at UCI.

"Sam can do everything," Rosa said. "He can shoot, score and play defense."

Pheil was assigned to cover El Toro's high-scoring Joey Colton on Tuesday. Holton had four goals, but none when Pheil was in his vicinity. Other top contributors are Mark Asic, who transferred to Dana Hills from JSerra, goaltender Brody Zachary, who had 12 saves against El Toro, and Grady Williams, who scored three goals against the Chargers.

"We've always had a handful of good guys here," Rosa said. "This team has the most balance and depth we've had since I've been here."

Dana Hills' victory might indicate a new balance in South Coast League water polo.

Taking a look around Orange County high school sports:

•County teams occupy seven positions in the CIF-SS boys water polo top 10 for Division 1. No. 1 is Mater Dei; No. 2, Newport Harbor; No. 4, Los Alamitos; No. 6, Corona del Mar; No.7, El Toro; No. 9, Dana Hills; and No. 10, Northwood. Foothill is No. 2 in Division 2, and Yorba Linda is No. 1 in Division 7.

•The Edison and Tustin football teams are tied for the No. 1 ranking in the CIF-SS Southwest Division. Santa Margarita is No. 1 in the Pac-5 Division, with Tesoro at No. 2. Segerstrom is on top of the Southern Division rankings.

•Four county teams are No. 1 in their CIF-SS girls volleyball divisions: Laguna Beach, in Division 1A; Whittier Christian, 2A; Sage Hill, 3A; and Saddleback Valley Christian, 4AA. No. 2 teams in their divisions are Mater Dei in 1AA, St. Margaret's in 3A and Loara in 4AA.

•The CIF-SS girls tennis rankings will look different next week than they do this week. In Division 1, Dana Hills is No. 1 and University is No. 3, with Campbell Hall of North Hollywood between them. On Wednesday, University beat Dana Hills, 10-8, to get some revenge for losing to Dana Hills in last season's Division 1 championship match.

•This is the 60th and final season that Al Hackney, 80, will be an official for high school football and basketball games. Hackney has worked football and basketball games at all high school and college levels. Hackney will be the referee, the "white hat," at the Fairmont Prep-Brethren Christian game tonight at Ocean View High, and next Friday he will be the ref for Huntington Beach-Marina at Westminster High.

•Halftime at tonight's Foothill-Villa Park football game will include a 35th anniversary celebration of the Villa Park team that won the CIF-SS Southern Conference championship in 1977. That team beat Los Alamitos, before the John Barnes coaching era began at Los Al, 21-0 at Anaheim Stadium. Ted Mullen, who coached that Villa Park team and also coached at Foothill, University and Anaheim, is expected to attend the event.

•The CIF-SS held its "Champions for Character" awards dinner Monday aboard the Queen Mary in Long Beach. County honorees were student-athletes Kevin Brown of University and Karly Wester of Edison; Loara baseball coach Dave Lappin; Edison and El Modena in the schools category; and the Pacific Coast League was the first league to win a commissioner's award in the nine years of the "Champions for Character" program.

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