By RICHARD DUNN     1/11/2016

In back-to-back years, the Mater Dei High Monarchs came up short in their CIF Southern Section Division 1 boys’ water polo championship quest, losing to Harvard-Westlake both times in the final.

But the Monarchs made a splash in 2015 while scaling the proverbial wall as they edged their nemesis, 9-8, for the CIF Division 1 championship, the Monarchs’ sixth section title and fourth in Division 1.

“We just couldn’t go this season without winning (CIF). That was the goal. As a team, we’re ecstatic to win,” Mater Dei senior center Sean Duncan told reporters after his team’s victory, in which the top-seeded Monarchs (29-2) held the second-seeded Wolverines (23-3) scoreless over the final 8   minutes in a thrilling CIF title game at the Woollett Aquatics Center in Irvine.

Duncan scored three goals in the CIF final to lead the Monarchs, while Mater Dei senior attacker Luke Wyatt tallied the go-ahead goal on a counterattack with 3:10 remaining in the game as the Monarchs dethroned two-time defending CIF Division 1 champion Harvard-Westlake of Studio City.

But it wasn’t a huge surprise, because Mater Dei defeated Harvard-Westlake in two other games this season, finishing 3-1 against the Wolverines this year.

Mater Dei goalie Nolan Strout recorded nine saves in the championship game as the Monarchs rallied from an 8-7 deficit after three quarters.

“The emotions are special because I’m so proud of these guys,” said Mater Dei coach Chris Segesman, whose team was sparked by senior Thomas Dunstan, the Trinity League Most Valuable Player. “Dunstan was the best player in the country at his position.”

Dunstan, a left-hander, led Mater Dei in goals (79) and assists (58) and was second in steals (47). He’s a transfer from Connecticut and a U.S. National Team member. Wyatt, also a southpaw and a first-team All-Trinity League selection, was third in goals (66) and second in assists (56) for Mater Dei.

Santa Margarita also left its footprint on the 2015 fall season.

In girls’ volleyball, the Eagles won the Trinity League championship, their second straight league title behind senior Jane Horner, junior Meghan McClure and sophomore Devon Chang. McClure earned Trinity League MVP honors as she earned 439 kills, 342 digs and nine aces. The Virginia-bound Horner, whose ball control and court knowledge helped the Eagles thrive, registered 461 digs and nine aces.

The Eagles locked up the league title by sweeping Orange Lutheran, 25-15, 25-15, 25-16, and finished 30-3 overall and 7-1 in Trinity action.

In girls’ tennis, JSerra junior Jadie Acidera won her second straight Trinity League singles title, compiling a 58-2 record and advancing to the Round of 16 at the CIF Individuals. JSerra won its first league title.

JSerra, which finished 19-2 overall and 7-1 in the Trinity, was led in doubles by senior twin sisters Mary Kaffen and Zoe Kaffen, who captured their second consecutive league doubles championship.

In boys’ cross country, Servite won the league title by packing five runners in the top 20: Sophomore Vincent Sarino (5th in 15:57.9), sophomore Mauro Rosales (9th in 16:08.3), junior Michael Holbrook (12th in 16:18.5), senior Michael Cazarez (17th in 16:30.4) and senior Erick Garcia (19th in 16:33.6).

JSerra junior Andrew Burkhardt (14:45.7) was the individual Trinity champion for the second straight year. Burkhardt was also unbeatable in the postseason as he captured CIF and state Division 4 titles.

In girls’ cross country, JSerra freshman Nadia Tabrizi won the individual championship in 18:35.3 as the Lions won the Trinity team title, placing five runners in the top 16, including three in the top 10. In addition to Tabrizi, freshman Isabella Abusaid (6th in 19:15.6) and junior McKayla Giacobetti (8th in 19:18.4) cracked the top 10 in the league finals.

Mater Dei finished as runner-up as junior Kelly Wacker (4th in 19:10.7), sophomore Camille McDonnell (5th in 19:13.1) and sophomore Claudia Stiglitz (9th in 19:32.3) ran top-10 times.

As a team, Santa Margarita was third and Rosary fourth. Individually, sophomore McKenzie Shulman placed second for the Eagles, while sophomore Leslie Gonzalez finished third for Rosary.

In girls’ golf, Santa Margarita claimed a Trinity League title, led by second-team All-Orange County selections Rylie Edwards, a sophomore, and Kiara Boggs, a freshman.

Individually, Rosary junior Caroline Cantlay tied for first in the league championship, but finished second after a three-hole playoff. Cantlay, who qualified for the WSCGA Southern State Regional, medaled four times and recorded a 37.8 nine-hole stroke average. She was the only first-team all-county choice from the Trinity League.

Rosary freshman Chayse Gomez, Mater Dei freshman Khameryn Utu and Mater Dei senior Kristy Harada also enjoyed banner seasons.