Medina continues to make a splash in local aquatics


The Costa del Sur 14U boys water polo team engineered a meteoric bronze medal finish at last summer’s USA Water Polo National Junior Olympic Games. Courtesy photo

Ernie Medina has become an icon for aquatics in South County — and with good reason.

A 1978 Hilltop High School alumnus, Medina has coached water polo and swim/dive programs at Chula Vista, Hilltop and Otay Ranch high schools in South County.

His long years of perseverance as a coach were rewarded in 2016 when Hilltop won the San Diego Section Division III girls water polo championship. It ended a long drought at the west side Chula Vista school after last winning a CIF boys water polo championship in 1980.

It was a moment that Medina obviously savored.

Medina had another chance to make history in his hometown after guiding his club team, Costa del Sur, to the U14 boys bronze medal at last July’s USA Water Polo National Junior Olympic Water Polo championships.

The U14 team was among two squads the Costa del Sur program qualified for the prestigious national championship event. Costa del Sur’s 16U team placed 19th in its division.

Ernie Medina goes over strategy during a timeout at last summer’s USA Water Polo National Junior Olympic Games. Courtesy photo

It marked the first time the club program had sent teams to the national championship tournament.

Twenty teams participated in each of Costa del Sur’s divisions.

Other divisions featured as many as 48 teams in each division.

“We are so proud to represent South Bay,” Medina said. “We made many positive connections.”

The 14U team included players primarily from South County as well as Coronado, La Jolla and East County, most either in middle school or incoming freshmen in high school.

Costa del Sur’s 16U team was comprised of players who attended Mar Vista, Hilltop, Eastlake, Bonita Vista, Otay Ranch and Steele Canyon high schools.

Action was furious over the nine games the Costa del Sur 14U boys team played at last summer’s USA Water Polo National Junior Olympics. Courtesy photos

Game on
Costa del Sur’s 14U team earned the highest place-finish among any of the qualified San Diego region teams in its division.

But it didn’t come easy.

Costa del Sur’s 14U team battled through nine games over a four-day period to finally emerge with the bronze medal in the Invitational Division.

The South County-based team opened the tournament on an optimistic note with victories in its opening two games – 18-3 over Marin County and 7-3 over Oahu — both at Portola High School in Irvine.

Costa del Sur played an epic overtime shootout match in its third game July 21 at Huntington Beach High School after battling Foothill to an 8-8 tie. However, Foothill won the shootout 4-3.

Costa del Sur promptly got back in the win column after defeating Laguna Beach, 7-5, in another game at Huntington Beach High School on July 21.

Costa del Sur played three games on July 22, all at Woodbridge High School in Irvine.

The San Diego locals slipped past Northwood in an overtime shootout game, winning 2-0, following an 8-8 tie.

Two play-in games followed, with Costa del Sur winning both. The South County team defeated Westside, 6-5, then edged Redlands, 8-7, to advance to the final day of competition.

Costa del Sur saw its bid to advance to the championship game nullified with a 13-4 loss to South Coast Ventura but did bounce back successfully with a 7-5 win over Orange County to secure third place in its division.

Costa del Sur finished its nine-game odyssey with a 7-2 tournament record.

“The club played well and had some hard-fought victories,” Medina noted.

Costa del Sur 14U boys USA Water Polo National Junior Olympic Games bronze medalists. Courtesy photo

Dylan Hartley averaged 12 goalie saves per game. He had six five-meter saves in the tournament and had four shootout blocks in one game.

Costa del Sur’s 16U team opened play on the first day of competition in the Classic Division with a 10-5 loss to Santa Cruz’s Waxem and an 11-9 win over the Houston Southside Honey Badgers.

Costa del Sur picked up additional victories against Huntington Beach (7-5) and San Jose (8-6) before coming up short in a 13-1 setback to Santa Barbara 805.

Costa del Sur drew a rematch against Waxem in its first game of the day on July 22, dropping a 15-6 contest, then came up short in an overtime shootout against Morgan Hill after the teams had deadlocked at 9-9.

Morgan Hill won the shootout by a score of 3-2.

Costa del Sur wrapped up tournament play July 23 at Garden Grove High School with a 15-10 win over the North San Diego Stars.

The Costa del Sur 16U team finished tournament play 4-3.

Both teams prepared all year for the summer events by competing in the San Diego County Cup, East County summer league play and the California State Games.

The 14U team placed third at the County Cup, captured first place in East County summer league play and a silver medal at the State Games.

The 16U team won its division in East County summer league play and finished with the silver medal at the State Games.

Costa del Sur’s 14U boys team did not lack for offense during its nine games at last summer’s USA Water Polo National Junior Olympic Games. Courtesy photos

Fast forward
Several players went on to play high school water polo as freshmen at Mar Vista High School. The Mariners finished as Mesa League co-champions in 2019 with a 9-1 league record and received the No. 7 seed in the Division I playoffs based on their 14-14 regular season record.

However, Mar Vista dropped its playoff opener, 7-6, to 10th-seeded Torrey Pines to suffer an early exit from postseason play.

Freshmen on the 2019 Mar Vista roster included Nathan Crosby, Bradford Dickson, Trevor Rector and Hartley.

Rector led the group with 19 goals and 25 assists to finish fourth overall in team scoring with 44 points in 23 games while also collecting 24 steals.

Dickson ranked second among the freshman group with seven goals and seven assists to finish with 14 points in 20 games while making 13 steals.

Crosby had three goals and two assists in three games while Hartley appeared in six games with one assist and two steals in the scoring column while averaging 3.7 saves per game.

Ethan Hastings, a sophomore on Costa del Sur’s 16U team, led Mar Vista in season scoring with 94 goals and 123 points in 26 games while 14U sophomore Carlos Ibarra finished second on the team with 57 goals and 74 points in 27 games. Sophomore Fletcher Field (16U Costa del Sur) ranked third with 46 goals and 71 points in 24 games.

Hastings topped the team with 58 steals.

Mar Vista’s top seven players were either sophomores (five) or freshmen (two).

Also on the 16U Costa team, Anderson and Stewart helped Eastlake engineer a runner-up finish in the San Diego Section Division II championship game.

The thrill of victory never rubs off. Courtesy photo

Schedule update:
USA Water Polo has updated its schedule after analysis of health data relating to the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic.

The 2020 National Junior Olympic Games, originally scheduled July 18-26, will now be divided into two distinct sessions.

Session I will feature 10U, 12U and 14U competition for boys, girls and mixed divisions Nov. 21-24 in Stanford.

Session II will feature 16U/18U boys and girls teams and will take place Dec. 27-30 in Irvine.