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Huntington Beach's Ethan Wojciechowski celebrates a goal next to Harvard-Westlake's Luke Henriksson. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

Lancers, Oilers set up championship showdown

STAFF WRITER

IRVINE – When the Orange Lutheran and Huntington Beach boys water polo teams played about 2 1/2 weeks ago, both sides figured they would see each other again in the playoffs.

“We both thought that the likely (spot) would be in the semi(finals),” Orange Lutheran coach Steve Carrera said. “Both of us had a feeling that it was kind of destiny.”

It turned out Wednesday night that their destiny will be the CIF-SS Division 1 final.

Fourth-seeded Orange Lutheran handled top-seeded Loyola of Los Angeles, 9-5, in the semifinals at the Woollett Aquatics Center, while third-seeded Huntington Beach edged No. 2 Harvard-Westlake of Studio City, 7-6, in the other semifinal.

The top-two ranked teams in Orange County will make their first appearances in a section final Saturday at Woollett.

“I’m really stoked,” said Carrera, whose squad fell to Huntington Beach, 7-4, on Oct. 29. “It’s nice to be turning the tide a little bit. It’s nice to have a little bit of balance. … This was one of our goals. We’re not shocked.”

The Lancers (25-3) advanced by defeating Loyola for the third time.

The Trinity League champion scored the first five goals to seize control. The Cubs (23-7) trimmed Orange Lutheran’s lead to 6-4 in the second half but the Lancers responded with a 3-0 run.

Goalie Jake Simmons set the tone for Orange Lutheran’s defense by making four of his nine saves in the first period, including a pair against the Cubs’ power-play.

Loyola didn’t score against the Lancers’ press until Marko Vavic’s goal with 2:32 left in the opening half.

Ash Molthen scored from the perimeter on Orange Lutheran’s first shot attempt. Josh Orrick and Jacob Markle followed with rebound-goals on the power-play as Orange Lutheran led, 3-0, after the first period.

“We were pressing really hard,” Carrera said. “We had to take care of Marko. He’s not just a good player, he’s a dynamic player. … There were times we were getting two guys on him.”

Also in the Division 1 semifinals:

Huntington Beach 7, Harvard-Westlake 6: Garrett Zaan snapped a 6-6 tie with a goal from center on a spin move with 4:21 left to lift the Oilers (24-3), who became the county’s first public school since El Toro in 2011 to reach the Division 1 final.

Huntington Beach goalie Patrick Saunders (14 saves) sealed the victory with a save against the power play with 23 seconds left.

The Oilers lost in the semifinals the past two seasons and were 0-2 this fall against the Wolverines.

“It’s (a) huge (accomplishment),” said Huntington Beach’s Ethan Wojciechowski, who scored a team-high three goals. “There (was) a lot of pressure on us this year, obviously, to see if we could get by and get to that final.

“Now, I think there’s definitely a load off our back.”

Harvard-Westlake (25-3) played without center Felix Brozyna-Vilim (knee).

Contact the writer: dalbano@scng.com


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