Citrus’ Seth Adams, #6, prepares a shot against Orange Coast’s Taos Cadarette, #17 during the Southern California Regional game held at Citrus College. Orange Coast won the match against the Owls 16-14. (Mickey Romero/Clarion)
Coming off their best regular season since 2001, the men’s water polo team fell 16-14 to Orange Coast College in the quarterfinals of the Southern California Regionals on Nov.14. This game marked the first playoff appearance for Citrus in more than a decade.
The two teams had met twice before in fall 2014.
They split the first two games with Citrus (20-8) winning 17-14 on Sept. 19 and Orange Coast (18-12) winning the Oct. 11 matchup 13-11.
The Pirates’ Joshua Hayashi helped open up a 3-0 lead early in the first quarter.
In the beginning, the Owls struggled to find the net but finally got on the scoreboard with 2 minutes remaining on a goal by Citrus freshman William Martinez.
At the end of the first, Citrus trailed Orange Coast 5-3.
With twelve of the Orange Coast players standing more than 6 feet tall, the Pirates used their overwhelming size to their advantage as they played physical defense and raced ahead to a 7-2 lead before Citrus began to find some room to score.
However, the Owls were unable to capitalize on a two-man advantage in the last seconds of the second quarter as they went into halftime trailing 8-5.
“They’re a lot more physical, and we’re just too small for them,” said Citrus sophomore Eugene Lee. “I think we’re just as fast as a team but they’re a lot more physical and they just get into us.”
In the third quarter, The Pirates broke the game wide open as they pushed their lead to 14-7 early in the fourth on a score by Orange Coast’s Scott Brush.
As the game went on, the physical play began to pick up on both teams. The intensity of the match was clearly evident to spectators and eventually gave way to an in-pool fight near the Pirates’ net.
The scuffle stopped the match for nearly 20 minutes.
As the match resumed, a total of eight players were ejected from the game, five from Orange Coast and three from Citrus. The officials awarded the Owls three penalty shots and the Pirates two.
Citrus’ sophomore Charles Ortega was able to convert on all three shots. He finished with six goals, three assists, and one steal.
The Pirates scored on their first penalty shot before Citrus goalie Drake Santos came up with a huge block on the second shot.
With 4:49 left in the fourth, the Owls were able to find the net again to bring the score to 15-11.
They kept up their efforts but could not catch up.
The Pirates handed the Owls a 16-14 loss and ended their fall 2014 season.
Adam Lee, Orange Coast head coach, expressed satisfaction with his team’s victory.
“We played a lot more as a team,” he said, “We made some adjustments from three weeks ago with our style of play and some of our tactical aspects that really helped us today.”
Citrus players praised second-year head coach Kenny Clements on their development as players saying his past success as a former water polo player have translated into his coaching.
“It’s important to have a coach who knows the game as well as he does. He can give us all his information.” said Ortega “I didn’t come from a high school that was good at water polo, he taught me almost everything I know.”In addition to their growth as individuals, Clements’ coaching helped the Owls become closer as a team.“The team has grown a lot, more than just as a team,” said Citrus sophomore Eugene Lee. “We’ve became more like a family as the season went on.”