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Traditional triumph for El Toro
High school water polo.
El Toro's boys water polo team continued one of its proudest traditions.
The No. 8 Chargers captured a sixth consecutive title at the Villa Park Classic by rallying past South Coast League rival and No. 5 Dana Hills, 10-8, in the finals at Villa Park on Saturday.
And El Toro claimed the first-place trophy under first-year coach Brett McCleave, who has replaced the legendary and now-retired Don Stoll.
"It feels really good to not be letting down that El Toro name, the El Toro tradition," McCleave, 29, said. "Granted, the big game is on Tuesday. That's the one that matters, but this one was good to get."
On Tuesday, El Toro (11-2) plays at Dana Hills (10-4) at 4:15 p.m. in the teams' first of two South Coast League showdowns.
The Chargers hope to start that match the way they ended Saturday's final.
Dana Hills all-tournament selection Sam Pfeil scored the first two goals of the fourth period to help the Dolphins open an 8-6 lead with 5:30 left.
But El Toro closed with a 4-0 run, including three on counterattacks.
Tournament MVP Joey Colton scored the go-ahead strike for the Chargers with three minutes left. The senior redirected a length-of-the-pool pass from all-tournament goalie Byron Rivers to give El Toro a 9-8 lead.
Josh Mundell added another counterattack strike with 1:10 left but the Rivers-to-Colton connection was the signature play.
"That was a big, big goal," McCleave said. "For Joey, he's been in those situations, so he understands those moments and Joey wants the ball.
"But for Byron to come up and make a full-court pass for a goal, that says the world about Byron."
Both goalies played well. Rivers, a junior, made 15 saves, and Brody Zachary racked up 20 blocks.
Rivers didn't allow a goal for the final 5:29. He also got a key block in the field from Lucas Johns with about two minutes left.
"Great defense, especially toward the end," Rivers said. "Toward the end, I didn't have to stop anything unless it was my responsibility. ... This is one of the (tournaments) I wanted to win - keep the tradition going."
Colton finished with a team-high four goals, including three on the power play. Pfeil netted four goals for Dana Hills, including two on the man-advantage.
In the semifinals, El Toro jumped to a six-goal lead against Righetti of Santa Maria and then held on for a 10-9 victory. Dana Hills outlasted Cerritos, 18-15, in overtime.
In the third-place match, Cerritos edged Righetti, 15-14, in overtime.
In a nonleague game:
No. 1 Mater Dei 17, Cathedral Catholic of San Diego 4: McQuin Baron made 15 saves, and Jon Walters scored four goals to help the host Monarchs (12-0) claim their CIF Southern Section record 60th consecutive victory.
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