Newport Harbor boys earn invitation to expanded SoCal Regional water polo tournament

When Newport Harbor’s top-ranked boys water polo team defeated Laguna Beach in the first round of the CIF-SS Division 1 playoffs last week, the Sailors became the first Orange County team this fall to earn an invitation to the expanded CIF State SoCal Regionals.

More county teams could earn invites this week as the Southern Section playoffs roll on.

The CIF State SoCal Regionals have expanded to three divisions from two in its maiden journey last fall. The regionals also have changed their qualifying procedures, said Kristine Palle, Southern Section assistant commissioner in charge of water polo.

The Southern Section will receive 12 berths to the regionals, Nov. 16-17 at Ocean View and Segerstrom. Ocean View will host the finals.

Newport Harbor earned its invite by becoming a top-four finisher in Division 1 in advancing to the semifinals. Oaks Christian, Harvard-Westlake and Loyola are other semifinalists who received berths.

The two finalists from Division 2 also will receive bids. Orange County is guaranteed one invitation because Foothill and Corona del Mar clash in one semifinal.

The Southern Section champions from Division 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 will also earn invitations, bringing the total to 11.

The section will select one more team to bring its total to 12, Palle said.

The one additional berth places added importance on the Division 1 consolation round, which begins today with matches between Laguna Beach-Mater Dei and San Clemente-Santa Margarita. The winner of the consolation bracket will take fifth and would seem in-line for the SoCal berth.

“My task is to rank those (entries) 1 through 12 and then the state will decide what divisions they go into,” Palle said during the recent release of the section’s playoff draw. “Each division is an eight team bracket.”

Last season, Mater Dei (Division 1) and Orange Lutheran (Division 2) captured the inaugural CIF State SoCal regional titles.

Palle said every section champion in SoCal are will receive an invite to regionals.

The CIF State SoCal Regional brackets are expected to be released Sunday night.

The second-year regional continues to spark discuss of a state tournament. One obstacle is aligning with the girls schedule. While the Southern Section’s girls play in the winter, the girls in NorCal play in the fall.

“Our boys advisory committee is very interested in true state championships, very interested,” Palle said.

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