May 30, 2024

OC Sports Zone: Community First

PHOTOS: Crean Lutheran celebrates first CIF title with 12-9 win over Ocean View

Crean Lutheran players and coaches celebrate after winning the CIF Division 6 title. (Photos courtesy Crean Lutheran Shutterbugs, Howard Lyon and John Luciano).

Crean Lutheran’s boys water polo players weren’t satisfied with just reaching the CIF playoffs for the first time in school history.

They wanted more.

Saturday morning, the Saints took the top prize, defeating Ocean View 12-9 in the CIF Division 6 final at the Woollett Aquatics Complex in Irvine under first-year coach Ed Carrera. It was the first appearance in the finals for both programs.

“My goals at the beginning of the season were to make CIF (playoffs) and win a league game first and then maybe two and we can make it to the playoffs,” said Carrera, who along with his brother Steve led Orange Lutheran girls and boys water polo teams to CIF titles.

“As soon as I got here, it was just nothing but complete absorption of everything I had to say. There was no questioning of what I had to say. They all fell in line pretty quick and that was the main thing this year, they trusted every word I said. They totally bought in from day one.”

To see the slide show, please click on the first photo:

Top-seeded Crean Lutheran (22-6) had a balanced scoring attack with six players scoring goals. Tate Fitzgerald, Blaise Tomassian and Jonathan Dipinto led the way with three goals each. Ocean View (13-15) was led by Joseph Stanbridge, who scored seven goals and helped his team rally from an early deficit.

Crean Lutheran jumped out to a 4-0 lead and led 6-2 at halftime. But Stanbridge’s goal with 4:11 left in the third quarter tied the match 6-6. Crean Lutheran led 9-7 after three quarters.

Ocean View threatened to tie the match in the fourth quarter but Saints goalie Austin Griffin stepped up with some big saves. He had five in the final quarter and Tomassian had two late goals to make it 11-7 and put the Saints closer to their first title.

Then, the players and Carrera celebrated by jumping into the pool on a 92-degree day.

“After coming off three coaches in three years, it’s really great to have a win with a new coach,” said Fitzgerald, a junior. “The first quarter was really good, we came out early scoring six goals but then it was a little tough in the second quarter but we brought it back in the third and finished it in the fourth.”

“It means a lot coming in with this new coach, he’s an amazing coach and he motivates us every day at practice. He’s really an inspiration to us all and an inspiration to the school and the program,” added Tomasian a senior. “Team chemistry, no other team has the bond that we have, especially the Christ bond, with prayer and everything. I’m blessed to have this with an amazing coach.”

Ocean View Coach Melissa Fernandez praised her players for fighting until the end.

“We came out to a slow start and let them jump on us but I was proud of them for battling back and not giving up and we got ourselves back in the game,” she said. “Down the stretch, we couldn’t quite pull it off. But I’m so proud of these boys. It’s been an up and down season and early on, we didn’t even know if we would have enough guys for a team so a lot of these guys are brand new and a couple just took charge as good leaders.

“Obviously we want to win today, no doubt about that, but we couldn’t be happier with the success they had this season and being here.”

In the end, Crean Lutheran had more offensive weapons.

“We have a balanced attack,” added Carrera. “Our talk was we knew number three from Ocean View, Stanbridge, was going to be a threat and we knew he was going to get his goals. But we just kept talking about our balance. Yeah, they have one guy who can really put it away, but we got six and we have our goalie Austin, who had a phenomal game. He had big saves and these extra little deflections that would give us control of the ball.”

Nikolas Mohrman, Robert Holmes and Mark Dipinto added one goal each for Crean Lutheran.

–Tim Burt, OC Sports Zone; timburt@ocsportszone.com