IRVINE Foothill’s boys water polo team received the spark it needed early in its CIF-SS Division 2 final against Corona del Mar on Saturday.
Freshman goalie Liam Harrison blocked a shot on a Corona del Mar breakaway early in the opening period, signaling the moment at hand at the Woollett Aquatics Center wasn’t too much for him.
Harrison finished with 12 saves and two steals to lead the top-seeded Knights to a defensive-minded, 10-7 victory against the No. 2 Sea Kings.
“Incredible,” veteran Foothill coach Jim Brumm said 6-foot-4 Harrison, whose brother, Samuel, scored a goal in the first half. “That big save right at the very beginning of the game on the breakaway, that was key. … He was just big.”
In claiming its third Division 2 crown in four seasons, Foothill (24-7) never trailed and used two more point-blank saves from Harrison early in the third period to hold off a surge by Corona del Mar (21-10).
The Sea Kings trimmed Foothill’s lead to 5-4 early in the third on a power-play strike by Tanner Pulice. But Harrison didn’t allow Corona del Mar to get any closer than one goal, blocking a shot off a cross pass and another counterattack chance.
Foothill finished the third by converting an extra-man chance with 10 seconds left coming out of a timeout. Brumm inserted Zane Scott, who had been sitting with two fouls, and the USC committed senior scored to make it 6-4.
Scott’s goal loomed critical because Corona del Mar’s Mitchell Cooper powered in a shot off a post-up 20 seconds into the fourth that might have tied the score.
Foothill’s All-County center Joseph Molina helped seal the victory in crunch time. He drew a penalty shot and scored for an 8-6 lead with 4:18 left in the fourth. After two more saves by Harrison and steal by Jon Hornecker, the Cal committed Molina scored from 8 meters for a 9-6 lead with 2:06 left.
Foothill reserve Phillip Waldman also scored in the fourth and matched Scott and Molina with two goals apiece. J.T. Miller…