NORWALK -- The Orange Coast College men's water polo team capped off a tremendous 2018 season and finished in third place at the 2018 Southern California Regional Water Polo Championships, hosted by Cerritos College, this past weekend.
The Pirates (19-8 overall, 19-6 vs. CCCAA schools), the No. 4 seed in this year's Regional, took on No. 5 Cerritos (19-9) and held on for a 7-6 win over the Falcons. Coast fell behind 3-1 in the opening quarter before dominating play over the middle two quarters, outscoring Cerritos, 5-0 over that span. A goal by Luke Rhone early in the fourth quarter pushed OCC's lead up to 7-3 before a late Falcons' push pulled Cerritos to within a goal at 7-6 with 2:23 left to play.
But from there, the strong OCC defense, along with stellar goalkeeping by Connor Halloran (seven saves) proved to be the difference, earning the Pirates a trip to the semifinals and a matchup with rival Golden West. Gabriele Simonti and Nicholas Fichman each had a pair of goals for Coast, while Rhone, Ryan Baumann and Eduardo Wainberg each added single tallies.
In the semifinals against the top-ranked Rustlers (23-1), the Pirates hung tough throughout the match. OCC trailed 1-0 after the first quarter and 9-6 midway through the fourth quarter, but could not find that scoring spurt late and fell, 11-6. Gera Garcia scored three goals for Coast, while Halloran was stellar in goal with 17 saves.
In the third-place game, Coast took on Long Beach (19-9) and it was an offensive slugfest in the Cerritos College pool the entire contest. The Pirates trailed 7-2 after one quarter and 15-12 after three quarters before outscoring the Vikings 6-2 in the fourth for an 18-17 win. Fichman finished off the season in style, scoring seven goals, while Baumann added four. Rhone and Wainberg threw in two goals each, while Simonti, Angel Rosado and Garrett Harryman each scored once for OCC. In goal, Halloran posted seven saves.
"I'm super proud of these guys with all of the adversity they had to overcome to get this far," OCC head coach Adam Lee said. "This year, we've had broken noses, broken feet, concussions and these guys stuck together and had an amazing season this year. To beat Long Beach to end our season -- a team we haven't beaten in a long time -- is a great way to cap off a great year."
Fichman finished the season ranked ninth in the state with 89 goals, while Wainberg's 45 assists are 19th-best in the state. Halloran's 52.9 save percentage was ninth-best in California as well.
"We're excited about the future," Lee said. "Out of our seven starters this year, four will be coming back, including our leading scorer and our top goalkeeper so we've got a good nucleus coming back for next season."