Newport Harbor High girls' water polo coach Bill Barnett only needed two fingers to count the positives after Wednesday night's Sunset League opener against Edison.
Number one, Barnett praised the play of junior goalkeeper Carlee Kapana. She played the whole game and made seven saves as senior Cleo Harrington, with whom Kapana usually splits time, was out sick.
Number two, Barnett was happy that his team earned the 3-1 victory at home.
Other than that?
"Other than that we stunk, especially on offense," Barnett said.
The score was unusual, and so was the game. Newport Harbor (8-2), the No. 3-ranked team in CIF Southern Section Division 1, was coming off a runner-up showing at the Holiday Cup. Yet, after watching his team score just a single goal in the first half against the Chargers, Barnett certainly did not feel like his team was sharp on offense.
"I have no idea why," Barnett said. "You know, we explain the significance of the game. It's a league game, and you've got to win league to get a good seed into CIF. It's like it went through one ear and out the other. The passing and shooting were terrible. I wish I knew why."
Give Edison (8-9), ranked No. 7 in Division 1, some credit. Coach Diggy Riley said he had footage of three of Newport Harbor's previous games.
"I knew defensively what we were going to do," Riley said. "It was more of just a crash, and I have plenty of girls who can center defend. My goalie [senior Josette Santos], I think she's way underrated and under the radar. I knew that if she'd come up big, we'd be all right. I was just trying to figure out how we stop their counter ... we didn't want to get in that position where we had a swim race with them."
Santos made nine saves, including one on a penalty shot. The Chargers certainly were able to stay in the game, even after Newport Harbor took the early lead.
Sailors senior Heidi Fults scored early in the first quarter on six-on-five, after junior Chanel Schilling drew the exclusion. Yet neither team was able to score again in the first half.
On offense, Edison was not able to get much going, having to dump the ball late in the shot clock several times.
"We didn't have a lot [of looks] in those first three quarters," Riley said. "Then again, they didn't either."
Newport Harbor senior Christina O'Beck gave the Sailors a bit more separation when she scored, off a pass from Fults, with 3:30 left in the third quarter. O'Beck also provided the hosts' third goal, scoring bar-down from about six meters with 3:57 left in the fourth quarter.
Junior lefty Delaney Cleveland finally got Edison on the board with 1:21 left in the game. But Newport Harbor, which has won six of the last seven Sunset League titles, was on its way to earning a league-opening victory.
"I always tell the goalies beforehand, 'Just remember, if they don't' score, we win,'" Barnett said. "We almost had the shutout."
The Sailors play at The Bishop's School of La Jolla on Saturday. Newport Harbor also learned Wednesday that it is the No. 3 seed for the Santa Barbara Tournament of Champions, which takes place Jan. 17-18 at Santa Barbara and Dos Pueblos high schools.