Marold Kamai tends to his son, Zack, after the Irvine senior suffered a throat injury during Thursday's Pacific Coast League match against visiting Corona del Mar.

CdM rallies to win game that turns scary, controversial

The Sea Kings' victory is marred by an ugly incident that leaves an Irvine player with an injury to his windpipe (with video).


IRVINE - Corona del Mar lost its best player before the match started.

Irvine lost arguably its best player for most of the third period because of a scary injury.

And if that wasn’t enough drama, both teams went on seven-goal runs during the Pacific Coast League boys water polo showdown at the William Woollett Jr. Aquatics Center in Irvine on Thursday.

The fourth-ranked Sea Kings made their run starting in the middle of the third period and rallied from a four-goal deficit to post an 11-8 victory against the host No. 8 Vaqueros.

Irvine (13-2, 1-1) led, 7-3, with 6:05 left in the third period when defender Zack Kamai appeared to suffer a throat injury. Luke Mooney had just scored from the perimeter when Kamai was seen holding his neck and floating on his back in front of the Corona del Mar goal.

The senior looked as if he was having trouble breathing as the teams were supposed to be lining up at mid-pool. As Kamai was assisted to the edge, his father jumped into the pool.

Marold Kamai said his son’s windpipe was displaced but the father was able to put it back in place. Kamai also was treated by paramedics but returned to start the fourth period.

Corona del Mar (5-4, 2-0) scored five goals in the third period to take an 8-7 lead. Corona del Mar junior Ben Zepfel scored the tying and go-ahead goals in the third. Zepfel and Emery Molnar each finished with four goals for Corona del Mar.

The Sea Kings played without standout center Chase Watson because of a one-game suspension for a flagrant foul against Northwood in the Sea Kings’ previous game.

Corona del Mar’s Ari Marks and Zepfel scored the first two goals of the fourth period as the Sea Kings opened a 10-7 lead.

Kamai alleged afterward that he was choked underwater by a Corona del Mar player.

“They (the paramedics) said the trachea might have moved over to the right or left,” said Kamai, who pointed to a scratch on his neck. “I had the will to go back in (the match). My team needs me. It was a close game.”

Corona del Mar coach Barry O’Dea said he didn’t see what happened to Kamai.

“I didn’t see the play, so I don’t really know what happened to him,” O’Dea said. “If that (a choke) is the case, I don’t teach that. I don’t coach that. That’s not our style.

“I’m pretty sure if you ask my guys questions, they can tell you all kinds of things that are going on underway. It’s water polo. Again, I don’t know if that happened or not. … It was a great game.”

Corona del Mar athletic director Don Grable said his school would look into the incident.

The Sea Kings opened a 3-0 lead with 3:49 left in the first period.

Irvine answered with a 7-0 run to take the 7-3 lead early in the third. Travis Pham scored four goals in the second for the Vaqueros. Irvine goalie Garret Speed made six of his 12 saves in the third.

Corona del Mar went 2 for 6 on the power play; Irvine 2 for 2.

The teams play again at Corona del Mar on Oct. 26.

Irvine returns to action Friday in the S & R Sport Water Polo Cup. Kamai had ice on his throat after the match Thursday but expected to play Friday morning when the Vaqueros open against Sacred Heart Prep of Atherton at 10 a.m.

“He’s fine,” Marold Kamai said of his son. “His throat will be sore.”

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