Pirates split on Day 1 of OEC Water Polo Championships

Pirates split on Day 1 of OEC Water Polo Championships

COSTA MESA -- The Orange Coast College men's water polo team advanced to the semifinals of the Orange Empire Conference Championships with an 18-1 win over Fullerton, but fell in the semis to Saddleback, 13-10, on Thursday afternoon inside the OCC Aquatics Pavilion.

By falling to the No. 2 seeded Bobcats, the No. 3 Pirates (15-7) will have to settle for the third-place game on Saturday at 11:10 a.m., where they will face fourth-seeded Riverside (10-14), while the Bobcats (25-5) advance to the OEC title matchup with top-seeded Golden West (22-2) on Saturday at 1:50 p.m. 

The morning matchup against the 6th-seeded Hornets was under the Pirates' control from the opening whistle as a relentless defense and well executed offense put Coast up, 6-0 after the first half of play. OCC doubled the score to 12-0 after three quarters and it from there, the only question that remained was would OCC keep the Hornets off the scoreboard the entire contest? 

With just over three minutes remaining, Fullerton finally found the back of the net against the Pirate reserves to avoid the shutout. 

Dane Howell led the offense for OCC with four goals. Toby Jones added three goals, while Ethan Ross, Bronson Garel, Caden Martin and Ethan Pranajaya each tossed in two goals.

In the OEC semifinals, the Pirates looked to answer back from a one-sided loss to the Bobcats, 17-5, back on Oct. 13.

Both teams came out strong defensively and held each squad to one goal through the first quarter of play. Saddleback scored 29 seconds in on a goal from Jack Stevens, before the Pirates tied things up on a goal from Kyle Jolas.

Coast had a few 6-of-5 advantages early in the match, but could not convert on a big chunk of them. The Pirates finished just 2-of-8 with the man advantage.

After the Pirates led 2-1 early in the second quarter, Saddleback's offense came to life and scored on five consecutive possessions and led 7-4 at the break. 

The Bobcats' lead grew to 9-4 with two quick goals in the third quarter before Coast regrouped and fought back. Howell scored seconds after a 6-of-5 advantage ended and that was followed up by an advantage goal by Caden Carpenter less than a minute later and suddenly, it was 9-6.

Garrett Gendron fought down low and pushed the ball into the net off of a rebound to make it 9-7. Just 13 seconds later, Carpenter stole the ball and with the Saddleback goalie scrambling to get back into position, the OCC attacker fired a shot into a wide-open net to bring the Pirates to within a goal at 9-8.

But the turning point came 30 seconds later when OCC's first ejection of the match turned into a 6-on-5 goal by the Bobcats and after that, a Saddleback steal turned into a breakaway goal by Dylan Gallegos, giving the Bobcats a three-goal cushion at 11-8 heading into the fourth quarter.

OCC again pushed back and used goals by Pranajaya and Aria Shahzad-Ghajar to pull to within a goal at 11-10. But from there, the Bobcat defense tightened up and goals by Spencer Sellwood and Stevens capped off the final scoring for both teams.

Carpenter led the way with four goals for OCC, while Pranajaya added a pair. Goalie Benjamin Matz finished with 10 saves against the Bobcats.