There are some changes when it comes to this weekend's Holiday Cup girls' water polo tournament.
The tournament is being played after New Year's Day, for one. And Corona del Mar High is not hosting, as new locker rooms are being installed at the Sea Kings' pool. Newport Harbor and Santa Margarita are the hosts for the two-day tournament, which begins Friday morning.
What has not changed, however, is that the 16-team tournament is stacked and provides a good early-season measuring stick for the top programs in the CIF Southern Section.
The Holiday Cup features six of the top seven teams in Division 1, including top-ranked Laguna Beach. The only team missing is Los Alamitos.
CdM (2-0) has played just two games in the first month of the season, though one of them was a 7-5 Battle of the Bay win on Dec. 20. The Sea Kings are guaranteed to double that output this weekend. They are seeded No. 2 in Group B, behind Laguna Beach, and will open their tournament at 10:40 a.m. Friday against Palos Verdes at Santa Margarita High.
A win against Palos Verdes, and CdM would likely face host Santa Margarita in a tough quarterfinal match at 4:05 p.m. Friday. Santa Margarita, which features last year's Orange County Player of the Year in senior Haley Wan, is the defending Division 2 champion and top-ranked again in the division.
USC-bound senior center Marina Coskinas and junior Eliza Britt lead CdM with four goals scored each. Sophomore goalkeeper Heidi Ritner, who was strong in the Battle of the Bay win, is averaging 10 saves per game.
Newport Harbor (4-1) is the top seed in Group A. The Sailors open their tournament against Corona Santiago at 8:30 a.m. Friday, at Newport Harbor High. A win, and the Sailors would play the Rosary-Long Beach Wilson winner at 1:55 p.m. Friday in the quarterfinals.
Senior Christina O'Beck and junior Kate Pipkin each pace Newport with 11 goals, while junior lefty Ellie Reid has 10. Harvard-bound senior goalkeeper Cleo Harrington and junior Carlee Kapana, who have each played a half in the cage in each of the Sailors' first five games, are combining for 12 saves per contest.
If the seedings hold on the first day, Newport Harbor would play Foothill in a tournament semifinal at 10:40 a.m. Saturday at Newport Harbor. The Sailors and Knights met on Dec. 13, with Newport Harbor rallying for an 8-7 victory.
CdM could face Laguna Beach in a tournament semifinal at 11:45 a.m. Saturday. The tournament championship game is scheduled for 4:05 p.m. Saturday, also at Newport Harbor High.
Though each Back Bay team has captured the CIF Division 1 title in the last two years, it's been a while since either has taken home the Holiday Cup title. Newport Harbor last won it in 2005, and CdM last won it in 2008.
Foothill has won the tournament each of the last two years.