The CdM Aquatics Blue began the USA Water Polo Junior Olympic Championships with two losses in its first three matches in the under-18 championship tournament.
With the showing in pool-play action, CdM dropped from the platinum division to the gold division.
CdM still wound up with the gold.
The rest of the way, CdM didn't lose again, claiming the gold medal in the gold division by topping 680 Drivers Water Polo Assn. Red A, 13-11, at Sacred Heart Prep in Atherton on Tuesday night.
"They didn't let up," said CdM Aquatics Coach Barry O'Dea of his players, who mostly play for him at Corona del Mar High. "We had a long summer. We had just gotten back from New Zealand, where we played a ton of games in [the Pan Pacific Youth Water Polo Festival]. In 3 1/2 weeks, we've probably played 30 games. We didn't get to practice. But our guys did a really good job."
CdM Aquatics sent two teams to the four-day tournament, the other was CdM Grey, made up of recent graduates, and it placed 16th in the platinum division.
Newport Beach Water Polo was third in the gold division.
CdM Aquatics Blue went into the fourth period with a two-goal lead against a 680 team comprised of all-stars from the San Francisco Bay Area. 680 tied the game in the fourth, before CdM Aquatics Blue went on a 3-0 run in which future junior Brendan Hack, and incoming seniors Ashton Jajonie and Garrett Spruth scored goals. Spruth's goal came on a five-meter penalty that Hack drew.
O'Dea said incoming senior goalie Nigel Bress played well in the final. In the semifinal, he said his other goalie, senior Adam Sandor, who plays for San Clemente, blocked two penalty shots in regulation and two in the shootout win against Stanford B.
"We were going to alternate the goalies [in the final]," said O'Dea, whose team finished 6-2 during the tournament, "but Nigel was really on and it was tough to pull him."
Another Newport-Mesa program at the USA Water Polo Junior Olympic Championships was Costa Mesa Aquatics Club, coached by Cody and Dustin Serrano.
Their lives the last five days have revolved around coaching water polo. The identical twin brothers were announced as co-coaches of the Costa Mesa High boys' and girls' water polo programs on Friday, the same day they drove up to the San Francisco Bay Area to guide their club program.
The Serranos led future freshman Mustangs to a third-place showing in the under-14 boys' classic tournament on Tuesday. The Costa Mesa Aquatics Club defeated Orange County Water Polo Club's SET Black team, 8-6, in the third- and fourth-place match at the Morgan Hill Aquatics Center.
"I'm really proud of the boys and how they fought back in 100-degree weather," said Dustin, adding that his team trailed, 3-0, after the first period. "We came back and took a 4-3 lead at halftime and we never gave up the lead."
Teak Zachary, Anthony Shin, Caedmon Fisher and Corbin Fisher led the comeback, each scoring a goal in the second period. Costa Mesa also got goals from Kevin Volk, Augie Cunningham, McCade Barrett and Blake Hudson in the second half.
Goalie Kevin Johnson made 10 blocks against SET. He also had a big block in Costa Mesa's shootout win against Back Bay Water Polo Club, propelling the team to the semifinals.
Costa Mesa finished 6-2 during the tournament. Many members on the team helped the program win the under-12 classic tournament title at the USA Water Polo Junior Olympic Championships last year.
Dustin said Cunningham, Hudson, Shin and Jacob Garcia would be incoming freshman at Costa Mesa High this season. Dustin said the high school team begins training in mid-August for the fall season.
"We've been very busy the last four days, starting our days at 9 a.m. and ending them at 8 at night," Dustin said, before he and Cody planned to drive back with the team to Costa Mesa. "We can't wait to get started on the high school season."
In the under-12 championship tournament, Newport Beach Water Polo placed third, defeating Northwood, 10-6. CdM Aquatics Blue took sixth.
Costa Mesa finished fifth in the under-12 classic tournament. The team defeated White C, 12-9, in the fifth-place match.
Newport Beach Water Polo Blue placed seventh in the under-14 championship tournament, while the CdM Aquatics Blue placed 20th.
In the under-16 classic tournament, Newport Beach Water Polo was 10th and CdM Aquatics Blue 14th.
CdM White finished eighth in the under-18 classic tournament.
The girls' USA Water Polo Junior Olympic Championships begin on Thursday and end on Sunday.
— From staff reports