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Photo courtesy of Peter Mondrick
Photo courtesy of Peter Mondrick

Pirates impressive at LBCC Tournament

LONG BEACH -- In perhaps the biggest test of the 2023 season, the Orange Coast College women's water polo team stepped up and finished third overall at the Long Beach City College Tournament, held this past weekend.

Playing three of the top four programs in the state, the Pirates won 3-of-4 matches, including wins over Citrus (12-5), No. 4 Saddleback (10-9) and No. 5 Sierra (9-7). OCC's lone blemish came in a hard-fought loss to No. 2 Riverside (10-8).

In the opener against the Owls, Coast (13-12 overall, ranked No. 7 in the state), jumped out early and never looked back en route to victory on Friday.  Jillian Duwe had four goals and two assists, while Ana Nardelli and Brooke Baze each added two goals while combining for three assists and three steals.  Paige Woodside was solid on defense with a team-best five steals, while the goalie tandem of Ella Walker and Emily Jones held the Owls to just five goals with 10 saves. 

OCC's first of three big tests in a row came on Friday afternoon against Orange Empire Conference rival, Saddleback. With the match tied at 3, the Pirates ripped off five unanswered goals and never lost the lead the rest of the way. Brooke Baze had two of those five goals during that crucial run, while Walker was stellar in goal with 10 saves to go along with two steals. 

Duwe again led the way with four goals, while Baze and Charlotte Gray each added two. Nardelli paced the offense with four assists.

Coast showed tremendous heart against No. 2 Riverside on Saturday. After falling behind 7-3 midway through the third quarter, Coast found some momentum and pulled even with the Tigers, 8-8. From there, it was a battle of defense for both teams, but in the end, the Tigers used a last-second goal in the third and an opening goal in the fourth to prevail, 10-8. Nardelli had three goals for Coast, while Duwe and Gray each had two. Again, Walker was a blocking machine for the Pirates and finished with 13 saves. 

In the tourney finale, the Pirates rallied late against Sierra for the 9-7 victory. Trailing 6-5 early in the fourth, Coast used goals by Nardelli and Duwe to draw even with the Wolverines at 7-7 with 3:10 remaining. A 6-on-5 goal by Baze gave Coast an 8-7 advantage with 2:38 remaining and Baze found the back of the net again with 1:03 left to ice the match.

Duwe had four goals an five steals in the comeback win, while Walker finished the afternoon with 10 more saves. 

Coast will wrap up the regular season at home on Wednesday against Riptide, beginning at 6 p.m.

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Annabelle Low
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Caeden Connell
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