Murrieta Valley Water Polo Team Plays in Finals

Murrieta Valley High School, a dominant player on the boys water polo scene for years, will play for the CIF Southern Section Division 3 cha...

Murrieta Valley High School, a dominant player on the boys water polo scene for years, will play for the CIF Southern Section Division 3 championship Saturday night.

The Nighthawks, 23-7 overall this season, will face Capistrano Valley in the 7 p.m. game at the Woollett Aquatic Center in Irvine. MV was seeded No. 1 in the division after winning its 16th consecutive league title this fall.

"We just work really hard," said Nighthawks coach Bryan Lynton, the only varsity water polo coach the school has ever had. "We have good kids, the school is very supportive of the program and so are the parents."

MV was 1-17 in the first year of water polo competition. Since then, the Nighthawks have been league champions every season, first in the Sunbelt League and now the Southwestern League. Five starters return from last year's team.

Senior center Hudson Rawlings (right), who has committed to Brown University, has 96 goals this season. Senior attacker Ian Fleenor (below left) has 94 goals, including six in the team's 13-9 victory over Montebello in the semifinals on Wednesday. Junior attacker Casey Lynton, the coach's son, has 48 goals, 64 assists and 100 steals. Senior Joshua Benitez is the team's top defensive player, according to Lynton.

Murrieta Valley advanced to the finals with wins over Estancia, Aliso Niguel and Montebello.

"Going into all our games, we've had a strong first quarter," Lynton said. "That hasn't always been the case with past teams, who have had slow starts. This team starts fast, and I hope that's the case Saturday night."

Capistrano Valley, champion of the Seaview League, advanced to the finals with wins over San Marino, Vista Murrieta and Laguna Beach. Lynton is familiar with the Cougars, even though the Nighthawks have never faced them in postseason play.

"They have an all-star player (Austin Seacrest)," Lynton said about the Cougars star, who has committed to Harvard. "He's fast and can play all positions. If we can control him, we'll have a chance."

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