IRVINE — Do not underestimate the girls' water polo contingent on the Corona del Mar High girls' swim team.
Two weeks ago it was junior Grace Morgan stepping in on the "A" relays, helping CdM win the Battle of the Bay for another year.
On Tuesday afternoon at University High, sophomore Bridgett Storm took center stage.
Storm sure picked a great time to win her first 200-yard freestyle race of the season. She gave her team some early-meet momentum, helping CdM accomplish something it hadn't done in eight years.
The Sea Kings raced past the rival Trojans by a 94-76 score, earning their first Pacific Coast League victory over University since 2006.
CdM's boys suffered their first league loss of the season, 119-50.
CdM's girls (4-0 in league) also have not won a league title since 2006, when CdM captured the CIF Southern Section Division 2 crown in current assistant coach Stephanie Gabert's junior season. But now CdM takes momentum into the league finals next week.
The girls' 200 freestyle was the closest race of the meet. Storm stormed back in the last stretch to out-touch University's Princess Ferguson-Nguyen, 2:01.13 to 2:01.14. Storm was more than a second quicker in the final 50 yards to edge out the victory. She said she thought she lost, until she looked at the scoreboard.
Storm has been working hard. She and other water polo players like Morgan, Maddie Musselman and Eliza Britt have been training with Coach Barry O'Dea's boys' team. Storm said she has dropped about four seconds in her 100 free time.
"It's been a big improvement," Storm said. "I'm really taking swim team seriously this year."
CdM, which finished second in CIF Southern Section Division 1 last year, appears ready to be taken seriously yet again too. Senior Stephanie Samudro won twice on Tuesday, capturing the 100 butterfly (56.72 seconds) and the 100 breaststroke (1:05.83). Both were easily Division 1 automatic times. Junior Meagan Popp won the 200 individual medley in 2:10.15 and also was second in the 200 back.
Musselman won the 100 freestyle in 54.79, while another water polo player, senior Marina Coskinas, captured the 500 free in 5:33.71. CdM also won two of three relays, as Popp, Nicole Lin, Samudro and Musselman won the 200 medley (1:51.32) and the same quartet also captured the 400 free (3:40.13). Both are CIF consideration times.
"On the paper lineup, I thought we had a good shot [to win]," CdM girls' Coach Doug Volding said.
Volding's Sea Kings, who won eight of 11 events, didn't even need the last relay. Samudro, Lin and another water polo player — goalie Heidi Ritner — went one-two-four in the 100 breast. That gave CdM a total of 86 points, clinching the victory.
"That's the ball game," Volding said, pumping his fist.
University girls' Coach Lara Navarro credited CdM but noted that her team was swimming without breaststroke and IM specialist Joyce Yang (shoulder).
"I knew that [the Sea Kings] were good ... but we thought we were all good," Navarro said. "Then Joyce came up and said, 'I can't swim this week.' I was like, 'No!' But they were pretty strong. Things are going to be fun [at league finals]."
The Pacific Coast League finals are next week at Northwood High. First, CdM plays host to the Timberwolves in their final league dual meet on Wednesday.
Volding will have Musselman for league finals, but not for the Division 1 finals at Riverside City College the following week. Musselman will be busy training with the U.S. senior national women's water polo team in preparation for the FINA World League Prelims, which are coincidentally also in Riverside on May 19-25.
"We need a fourth girl [on two relays] and it won't be Musselman," said Volding, who has been swimming her with club swimmers Popp, Lin and Samudro.
CdM's boys (3-1 in league) were not as fortunate against a red-hot University team that is top-ranked in Orange County. The Trojans, coached by CdM alumnus Tom Norton, won 10 of 11 events. They were led by William Hofstadter and Corey Okubo, who won two individual events each. Hofstadter won the 50 free in a school-record 21.37 seconds and also the 100 free in 46.92. Okubo won the 200 IM in 1:49.42 and the 100 butterfly in 49.36.
CdM's Tyler Lin was the lone event winner for the Sea Kings. He won the 100 breaststroke in a Division 1 and All-American automatic time of 56.66.
Tim Hanson was second in the 500 free and third in the 200 free for CdM.