HUNTINGTON BEACH (23-3) vs. HARVARD-WESTLAKE (25-2)
Site, time: Woollett Aquatics Center, 5 p.m.
Outlook: The No. 3-seeded Oilers, ranked No. 1 in Orange County, collide with No. 2 seeded Harvard-Westlake. The Wolverines dominated the division much of the regular season. Despite mostly playing without powerful center Felix Brozyna-Wilim, they racked up the victories relying on goalie Sam Krutonog, a swift counterattack and execution on both ends of the pool. They swept their three tournaments, including a victory against Huntington Beach at the Elite 8 (10-3) and in the final of the South Coast Tournament (9-4) in late September. But Harvard has slipped down the stretch, dropping games to Santa Margarita and Loyola in a Mission League showdown. Brozyna-Vilim is hopeful to return in the playoffs but his status remains uncertain as Harvard attempts to reach a fourth straight Division 1 final. The senior hasn't played since the finals of the Elite 8 on Sept. 17.
The Oilers are playing their best and ride a 14-game winning streak into their third consecutive Division 1 semifinal. The Sunset League champion received a considerable boost with the addition of transfers Ryan Hurst (defender) and Garrett Zaan (center), the dominance of their powerful center, QuintenOsborne, and steady play of goalie Patrick Saunders. But for Huntington Beach to reach its first CIF final, it will need to not only beat a nemesis but do it without left sharp-shooting lefty Curtis Jarvis (serving misconduct penalty suspension). The Oilers will need to find outside shooting threats to replace Jarvis or potentially generate new areas of offense. Jarvis’ absence could prompt the Wolverines to sag off some of the Oilers’ shooters, rely on their Krutonog and drop extra attention on Osborne. But Huntington Beach can counter with its own improved defense, which has strengthened throughout the season.