Boys water polo finals: Albano's previews
CIF-SS BOYS WATER POLO CHAMPIONSHIPS
At Woollett Aquatics Center, Irvine
Orange Lutheran (25-3) vs. Huntington Beach (24-3), 5:45 p.m.
Outlook: Orange County’s top-two ranked teams collide in the first CIF final for both schools. It’s the first time since 1991 (San Clemente-Capistrano Valley) that two first-time finalists clash for the Division 1 crown. No. 1 Huntington Beach beat short-handed No. 2 Orange Lutheran, 7-3, about 2½ weeks ago. Standout left-hander Ash Molthen of Orange Lutheran (73 goals, 71 assists) was banged up and played just a few minutes of the fourth period. The Lancers are an excellent pressing team and employed the strategy against the Oilers. But center Quinten Osborne of Huntington Beach dominated the 1-on-1 coverage with four goals. The Oilers’ improving defense is anchored by goalie Patrick Saunders, who posted 14 saves against both Mater Dei and Harvard-Westlake in the quarterfinals and semifinals. Orange Lutheran goalie Jake Simmons is coming off a strong, nine-save performance in the semifinals against Loyola. Hannes Daube leads Orange Lutheran with 79 goals. Daube and Molthen could be covered by Huntington Beach’s Ethan Wojciechowski and Jacob Cavano in star-studded duels, placing extra importance on the supporting casts. Huntington Beach left-handed Curtis Jarvis returns from a one-game suspension for misconduct.
Santa Margarita (25-7) vs. Laguna Beach (21-9), 2:30 p.m.
Outlook: The third-seeded Eagles and first-year coach Jeremy Laster, an Olympian from San Clemente, make their CIF finals debut. Top-seeded Laguna Beach has reached its sixth section final but is seeking its first Division 2 crown. The Breakers edged Santa Margarita, 9-8, in overtime on Sept. 20 but that was before the emergence of one of Santa Margarita’s key transfers. Slick attacker Yurian Quinones, a transfer from Tesoro, didn’t play. The sophomore and swift junior AJ Rossman, a transfer from Washington, have bolstered a Santa Margarita squad based on defense and counterattack. Twins Brock (97 goals) and Chase Petersen (77 goals) pace the offense while Noah Hodge (327 saves) anchors the defense. Center Jack Baumgardner (65 goals) is the Eagles’ lone senior. Laguna Beach has its own standout goalie in Gordon Pike. The Breakers also can counterattack with rising sophomore Colton Gregory among others. They feature a strong 2-meter presence with Larsen McCarroll and Sebastian Jacobs. In the semifinals, Jacobs suffered a neck injury and is questionable, first-year coach Trevor Lyle said.
Aliso Niguel (21-7) vs. Oaks Christian (21-7), 1 p.m.
Outlook: The third-seeded Wolverines advanced to their first CIF final with a dramatic, 8-7, victory against No. 2 Redlands East Valley in the semifinals. Colin Knight scored five goals, including the winner with nine seconds left. Knight, a senior, also guards 2 meters. Senior Nick Ure is a crafty utility player who creates opportunities in both ends of the pool. He leads Aliso Niguel, the third place team from the South Coast, with 87 goals. Wolverines’ goalie Evan Johnston has emerged as a defensive anchor. The 6-foot-4 junior had 10 saves in the semifinals. The top-seeded Lions also are in their first section final. They’re led by assistant national team coach Jack Kocur. Jacob Watson and Nikola Ilic each scored four goals in the Lions’ 11-6 victory against Riverside Poly in the semifinals. Sophomore goalie Adrian Weinberg and junior defender Jacob Ehrhardt – both of whom are 6-foot-5 -- are other players to watch.
Burroughs of Burbank (24-6) vs. San Juan Hills (18-11), 10 a.m.
Outlook: The underdog Stallions reached their first section final by defeating No. 4 seeded Murrieta Mesa, 10-9, in the quarterfinals and No. 1 Corona, 8-6, in the semifinals. The Sea View League tri-champion had never been past the first round before 2016. Senior utility Brent McClain, a former baseball player, leads the Stallions with 112 goals. Freshman center Max Miller is second in scoring with 85, including 16 in four playoff games. Coach Ivan Buich’s team has played solid defense in the postseason, allowing an average of 8.0 goals per match. Andrew Mansoor, a second-year goalie, has 304 saves. The third-seeded Indians have averaged 15.5 goals per match in the playoffs en route to their first section final. They played in Division 4 last season but knocked off No. 2 seed La Canada, 9-7, in the semifinals earlier this week. Marko Vucetic (93 goals), Aram Nordanyan (90 goals) and David Arakelyan (73) lead the attack for Burroughs, which finished second to Hoover in the Pacific League. The Indians won the Oxnard tournament.
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