Saturday night's CIF Division 1 girls water polo final will pit Back Back rivals Newport Harbor and Corona del Mar against each other for the fifth time this season.
I wonder how many rivals in any high school sport in Orange County can say they have played five times in a single season, with the last one for a CIF championship? My guess, not many.
Newport and CdM truly have a unique relationship in girls water polo in that they play their annual Battle of the Bay nonleague game -- a must-see match each season -- and then enter the same high-powered tournaments.
Here's a recap of the previous four matches this season - which the teams split (pictured above: NH's Cleo Harrington, far left, and CdM's Ally McCormick):
The Sea Queens posted the victory despite not having Greek transfers Stephania and Ioanna
Haralabidis, who weren't yet eligible. CdM freshman Maddie Musselman burst onto the county scene with a match-high five steals, including a key one late in the third that led to the go-ahead goal by Cassidy Papa late in the third. Musselman was arguably the best player in the pool. SERIES: CdM 1, NH 0
Newport Harbor 7, Corona del Mar 4
Holiday Cup third-place match at NH, Dec. 29
The Sea Queens entered the third-place match coming off a deflating loss to Foothill in the semifinals. Foothill won despite starting its backup goalie in a surprise move. Newport fell to Santa Barbara in semifinals but got quick revenge against CdM. Newport center Elissia Schilling was the best player in the pool with three goals -- from center, extra and the perimeter -- and added three steals. The Greeks twins still weren't eligible. SERIES: CdM 1, NH 1
This was an intense splash-down on a chilly night at Dos Pueblos because the Sea Queens were full-strength with the Greek twins. But the Lady Sailors answered the challenge big-time behind goalie Cleo Harrington, pictured above left, and a game-winning goal by Christina O'Beck with 2:15 left. Harrington emerged as a county player of the year candidate with nine second-half saves, including a stop against a counterattacking Stephania in the third. CdM missed 23 shots in an effort that prompted Coach Sam Bailey to say, "I feel any time we were in the water, I think we had six individuals. ... That was the major difference." Translation: CdM had chemistry issues in the water. SERIES: NH 2, CdM 1
Corona del Mar 9, Newport Harbor 7
Irvine SoCal Champs third-place match, Feb. 2
Both teams were coming off stinging losses in the semifinals in which their offenses struggled. Corona del Mar's Cassidy Papa emerged in the bronze medal game with five goals -- one off her season-high -- to lead the Sea Queens to the victory. The Stanford-bound senior had not scored in the previous two games in the series but was the best player in the pool. Papa scored two of her five goals in the fourth. Stephania also shined in the fourth with a goal and two steals. The Sea Queens also racked up nine goals despite just two chances on extra. SERIES: CdM 2, NH 2