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O.C. contenders face uncertainty as postseason begins
LOS ALAMITOS - The Division 1 playoff pairings in boys water polo arrived Sunday with a dominate team at the top but uncertainty just about everywhere else.
Two-time defending Division 1 champion Mater Dei (27-0), and its Southern Section record 75-match winning streak, earned the top seed.
The Monarchs were followed by No. 2 seed Long Beach Wilson, No. 3 Loyola of Los Angeles, No. 4 Newport Harbor, No. 5 Corona del Mar, No. 6 Los Alamitos.
Newport Harbor (20-6) and Corona del Mar (21-6) could collide in an intriguing quarterfinal Saturday, with the winner to potentially encounter Mater Dei in the semifinals.
But will the Sailors have arguably their best player?
Before the pairings were released, news surfaced that Newport Harbor's Dan Stevens was diagnosed with a ruptured eardrum following a 15-4 loss at Mater Dei on Saturday night.
The U.S. junior national team player left the match in the second period holding his ear after playing defense but returned in the third.
Water polo players have played with a ruptured eardrum, said former U.S. Olympic goalie Genai Kerr (UC Irvine), now an assistant at Brown. Players take medication and fill their ear canals with wax, he said.
"It's possible to play with it," Kerr said, "but it depends on how severe it is."
Stevens' father, Doug, said in an e-mail that his son plans to see a specialist and hopes to play Wednesday when the Sailors play host to Servite in the first round.
Corona del Mar hoped to be seeded third after beating Newport Harbor and Long Beach Wilson en route to the title at the recent Memorial Cup in San Jose.
"I think some early losses might have hurt them a little bit," assistant Southern Section commissioner Kristine Palle said of Corona del Mar, which went 1-2 against Wilson and later lost a nonleague game against Newport Harbor.
Said Corona del Mar coach Barry O'Dea in a text message Sunday, "We're excited to get started. We are playing good water polo right now and we plan on continuing that as the No. 5 seed."
Long Beach Wilson used a 9-7 victory against Loyola on Friday to jump to the No. 2 seed. Palle said had Loyola won the match, the Cubs likely would have been the No. 2 seed with Newport Harbor the No. 3.
Los Alamitos (18-7) then might have fallen to eighth seed, Palle said. Now the Griffins loom as a darkhorse in the lower bracket because they split games with Loyola and Long Beach Wilson. But Los Alamitos can't look past its first-round opponent: surging Santa Margarita (20-9), which only lost one game in October (to Mater Dei).
"My teams have always believed that you either win the whole thing or you don't," Los Alamitos coach Dave Carlson said in a text Sunday. "Quarterfinalist, semifinalist, none of that matters to my guys.
"Mater Dei is a cut above the rest. We wouldn't have been upset if we had to play Mater Dei in the first round. That's the team you have to beat to win Division 1. Nobody orders rings for quarterfinalists, semifinalists, etc."
Other county teams with a top-four seed: Laguna Beach (Division 2), Foothill (Division 2), Troy (Division 4), Cypress (Division 7) and Valencia (Division 7).