Orange Lutheran players kiss the CIF-SS Division 1 water polo championship plaque for their victory over Huntington Beach in Irvine on Saturday, November 19, 2016. (Photo by Paul Rodriguez, Orange County Register/SCNG)

Orange Lutheran stays united to the end, captures first CIF-SS title


IRVINE – Orange Lutheran boys water polo coach Steve Carrera hasn’t been afraid to praise Huntington Beach, and that continued at the CIF-SS Division 1 championships.

“Huntington Beach is going to go down as one of the greatest teams,” he said. “That team could probably beat college teams.”

If that’s true about the Oilers’ talent, Orange Lutheran cemented its legacy Saturday night as one of the most united and well-balanced squads, a testament to how much teamwork means to championships.

Behind a strong, team-oriented press defense and a deadly power play, fourth-seeded Orange Lutheran captured its first title with a 9-7 victory against the No. 3-seeded Oilers in front of an overflow crowd of 2,500 at the Woollett Aquatics Center.

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In a stunning move, the Lancers (26-3), ranked No. 2 in Orange County to Huntington Beach (24-4), pressed the perimeter and left powerful center Quinten Osborne to effective one-on-one coverage from Parker Killion and his crashing teammates. Osborne finished with two goals.

Orange Lutheran also received five drawn exclusions from its center, Josh Orrick, en route to a 6-for-9 effort (67 percent) on the power play.

Both factors helped the Lancers take the lead for good late in the third period and surge to a pair of three-goal leads in the fourth in the duel of first-time finalists.

“We worked really, really hard over these past few years just trying to build a team,” said Noah Sasaki, a senior who quickly came off the bench in the first to press when his brother, Sam, suffered a bloody nose.

“That’s what this (title) ultimately is the culmination of: us coming together and playing as one unit. … That’s what helped us win that game, helped us pull off being able to press, being able to do so well on the 6-on-5.”

Hannes Daube scored two his game-high three goals on the Lancers’ power play. But in a tribute to the balance of the Trinity League champion, Orange Lutheran received single goals from Matt Kacura, Ash Molthen (three assists), Orrick, Killion, Sam Sasaki and Jacob Markle against UCLA committed goalie Patrick Saunders (nine saves).

Killion played a high, fronting defense against Osborne, who drew two exclusions for a power-play that went 2 for 4 against goalie Jake Simmons (four saves).

“Parker is an amazing defender,” Carrera said. “This time, we were doing a good job of taking away the free, easy passes and we didn’t let Wojo (Ethan Wojciechowski) get hot. We didn’t let (Jacob) Cavano get hot. … (Our) team came together and they executed and they stuck to the game plan.”

Killion also guarded Osborne in the teams' nonleague game about 2 1/2 weeks. Osborne dominated with four goals in a 7-3 victory.

"The problem last time was they (Huntington Beach) were swinging the ball left and right and they were able to get it in (to Osborne) right away," Carrera said. "(Parker) swims, he moves, he's slick. ... If I would have told anyone out here that we're going to press the entire game, they would have called me crazy but we feel we're athletic enought to do that."

The Lancers' boys also joined Orange Lutheran's girls as reigning CIF Division 1 champions.

Huntington Beach's last lead was, 3-2, late in the first half off a timeout play. A patient Matt Robert passed to Quinn Simpson on the wing, who scored to give the Oilers a 3-2 advantage with 2:28 left in the half.

"We played a bad game, but the biggest thing, OLu came to win," Saunders said. "They played amazing. That was one of their best games I’ve seen. They wanted it more."

Orange Lutheran showed that by roaring to the finish of the opening half, a momentum swing that pushed them in the final two periods. Daube drew an exclusion that led to a power-play strike at the point by Sam Sasaki with 34 seconds left in the second period.

Then with the final seconds of the first half ticking down, Molthen scored a spectacular goal at the buzzer from just inside half-tank to give the Lancers a 4-3 lead at intermission. The left-handed junior fired a shot in off the bottom of the cross-bar in the high, near-side corner.

Huntington Beach tied the score at 4 and 5 in the third period but the Sunset League champion never led the match after the Lancers' surge to close the first half.

"In big moments, that's why he's great," Carrera said of Molthen. "He's not afraid."

The Lancers scored the go-ahead goal for a 6-5 lead with 27 seconds left in the third on a power-play strike by Markle off a pass by Molthen. They then scored the first two goals of the fourth period to take control.

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