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Boys water polo 2012 season preview
A rising program from South County will attempt to inject even more intrigue into an already-captivating Division 1 boys water polo race this fall.
Dana Hills, coming off a breakout summer, is ranked fifth in The Register's preseason O.C. Top 10 and could emerge as a darkhorse in Division 1.
"This is by far the most talented team I've had," said Dana Hills coach Matt Rosa, who is entering his 10th season. "When we meshed well (this summer) ... we had great performances."
In July, Dana Hills finished eighth at the California State High School Championships. The Dolphins also took second behind two-time defending Division 1 champion Mater Dei at the Santa Barbara tournament.
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In Santa Barbara, Dana Hills edged Long Beach Wilson, which is back in Division 1 after divisional realignment. At the state tournament, the Dolphins challenged Corona del Mar, which also returns to Division 1, before falling in the fifth-place semifinals by one goal.
Dana Hills also went 2-1 in the summer against defending South Coast League champion and longtime nemesis El Toro.
The Dolphins' offense will attempt to balance the pool with senior left-hander Sam Pfeil and right-hander attackers such as JSerra transfer Marko Asic and emerging junior Spencer Likins. Attacker Cade Montgomery also returns after a 30-goal season in 2011.
Dana Hills' 2-meter game features primary center Brett Cleary and rising defender Grady Williams, whom Rosa calls the team's most improved player.
Senior goalie Matt Bridges (6-foot-4) returns, but the Dolphins also have talented junior keeper Brody Zachary.
Rosa said his team's depth extends to the bench.
"I am confident that is one of the reasons we did so well in our tournaments," he said.
Dana Hills has several reasons to be excited but knows Division 1 will be difficult. The Dolphins were ranked seventh in the Division 1 preseason poll.
"It's a crazy tough division," Rosa said.
The focus for the Dolphins starts in the South Coast League, where El Toro and San Clemente loom as challengers in a double-round format.
"We definitely need to win league," Pfeil said. "We're definitely a better team that the past two (seasons). We basically have the same core group as last year. ... We'll have pretty good center play and good outside shooters. We'll be overall pretty good."
Dana Hills will close out the regular season by playing at El Toro and San Clemente in the same week.
"At least we're going to be prepared going to CIF if we can get through that one," Rosa said.
SPRAGUE MOVES TO LA CANADA
Legendary coach Jim Sprague, an assistant at Los Alamitos the past four seasons, is now a walk-on coach at La Canada, where his son, Todd, is the first-year head boys varsity coach.
Todd also is a coach for the La Canada club program, Jim reports. Todd had been a frosh-soph coach at Los Alamitos.
"I really wanted to coach with my son," Jim Sprague said of his move. "It had nothing to do with (Los Alamitos coach) Dave (Carlson). ... I really respect Dave."
The 76-year-old Sprague, who built Sunny Hills and Servite in Orange County powers, will return to the county a few times this fall.
La Canada, ranked No. 1 in the Division 3 preseason poll, will be part of the South Coast and Villa Park tournaments. Tesoro was the county's top-ranked team in the Division 3 poll.
Jim and Todd have coached together before. They were a highly-successful duo in the early years of the Rosary girls program.
At Los Alamitos, Carlson will be assisted by one of his former standouts, Scott Davidson.
NEW POOL AT SERVITE?
Servite is in the planning and fund-raising phases to build a 51-meter, Murtha pool, Friars coach Mustafa Hassan said.
NEW FOES, FACES FOR MATER DEI
No. 1 Mater Dei - which enters the season riding a Southern Section record 48-match winning streak - added nonleague games against No. 2 Newport Harbor (Nov. 3) and No. 3 Corona del Mar (Oct. 13) to its schedule.
The Monarchs return five starters, including junior national team players Jon and James Walters, goalie McQuin Baron and Kent Inoue. The two new projected starters: Phillip Tran and Matthew Couzzo.
Los Alamitos attacker Chandler Jarrels, who missed most of last season with a back injury, is back, Carlson said. "He's good to go," Carlson said of the senior. San Clemente senior Derek Cousineau had hip surgery in June but will be ready for the season, Tritons coach Marc Parker said.
BIG BOYS IN THE POOL
Corona del Mar's rotation of centers will include seniors Armen Mavusi (6-4, 220) and Ty Hack (6-4, 235), Sea Kings coach Barry O'Dea reports.