By William Martin / Video Editor
With only three returning sophomores, the LBCC men’s water polo team started the season as strangers, but finished it as friends, but most importantly, as champions.
Freshman attacker Ikko Saito and freshman goalie Lazar Andric’s efforts carried the Vikings at the California Community College Athletic Association championship in an epic 11-9 overtime victory, defeating the defending champs Golden West on Saturday, Nov. 23 at Riverside City College. Andric made 18 saves in the championship game, which was a season high for the “Montenegrin Manimal” and gave him the tournament’s Most Valuable Player honors. Two of his saves came in critical moments of the game when he made huge stops against five-meter penalty shots to keep the Vikings in the game.
Saito’s offensive fury continued as he hammered in a game-high five goals. He scored nine of the Vikings’ 19 total goals during the two games of the championship weekend. The title was LBCC’s ninth.
The win extended the team’s impressive streak to 20 straight victories and extinguished Golden West’s run for its third straight state title.
It was the fifth meeting for the rivals this season and second in two weeks. LBCC dominated Golden West, 4-1, on the season series, giving Golden West its only four losses this season. After the win, Viking coach Chris Oeding was named State Coach of the Year. LBCC’s Saito, Andric and freshman Blake Grove were named to the All-State Tournament team. Friday, Nov. 22, LBCC faced off against Diablo Valley, the second seed from the northern division in the tournament.
Oeding called the semi-final game “sloppy but effective,” for the 8-4 win. The gritty win showed LBCC’s superiority on defense against the over-matched Diablo Valley team, having stopped them on numerous chances with excluded Vikings out of the match. Andric had eight saves Friday and had a total of 26 for the weekend.
It was the first time that the Vikings were able to win the regional, conference, and state championships in the same season. Freshman attacker Jack Ellinthorpe said, “We knew that if we played our game, we would win. The challenge was focusing on us and playing our style of game.” LBCC shows a style that is hard-nosed with a solid team defensive effort that assists an already stout goalkeeper in Andric. The Vikings’ offensive strategy moves the ball and looks for open shots.
LBCC finished its season with an overall record of 27-2, going a perfect 7-0 in conference play.