M. Water Polo: Falcons compete against elite competition at tournament

File Photo: Cerritos played four games at the Saddleback Tournament over the weekend
File Photo: Cerritos played four games at the Saddleback Tournament over the weekend

Playing in their final regular season tournament of the season, the Cerritos College men's water polo team took on four very good opponents at the Saddleback Tournament. The Falcons opened with an 11-6 win over the host Gauchos and followed that with a 12-2 setback against Los Angeles Valley College, which was their third loss in as many meeting this season against the Monarchs. On the second day, they took on Northern California power West Valley College and came away with a hard-fought 7-5 victory and concluded with a contest with an 8-6 win against Riverside City College. The schedule doesn't get any easier for the Falcons, who will host rival Long Beach City College in a 4:30 p.m. South Coast Conference match on Wednesday. A win over the Vikings will create a three-team team tie for first place in the conference.

Cerritos vs. Saddleback: Against the Gauchos, the Falcons jumped out to a quick 6-1 lead and the score swelled to 9-2 midway through the third quarter. Five of the first nine goals were scored by sophomore Raul Muniz (Colbach, Mexico), who finished the match with five goals on six shots. Both sophomore Arturo Ortuno (Universidad la Salle, Mexico) and freshman Kevin Elizarraraz (Buena Park HS) each accounted for a pair of goals, with Muniz and sophomore Dylan Sun (Cerritos HS) pacing the team with three steals. All three goalies saw action, with freshman Zachary Jenkins (La Serna HS) playing the first half and miking seven saves, with freshman Michael Banda posting five blocks in the third period.

Cerritos vs. Los Angeles Valley: Taking on the Monarchs for the third time this season, the Falcons struggled to get their offense going. It was a 1-1 contest early in the second period, but Cerritos didn't score their next goal until 2:33 remained on the clock for the game. In the meantime, LA Valley put 11 consecutive goals on the board to post the win. Muniz and freshman Billy Catton (La Quinta HS) scored the goals, while the Falcons committed 15 turnovers in the match. Jenkins made seven saves in three periods, with Banda coming on to post a pair of blocks.

Cerritos vs. West Valley: The Vikings, one of the top teams in Northern California, held a 3-2 lead at intermission before the Falcons made their move on offense. Both Elizarraraz and freshman Nik Klimpfinger each scored twice in a 4-1 third period to help Cerritos open up a 6-4 lead heading into the final 8:00 of the game. Muniz added an insurance goal, while Elizarraraz led the team with three goals in the match. Sun assisted on a pair of goals and added three steals, with Muniz pacing the team with three helpers. Jenkins came up with 10 saves in the cage to help the Falcons post the big win.

Cerritos vs. Riverside: The Falcons closed out the tournament with a strong second half against the Tigers. Trailing, 4-2 at halftime, they played another strong second half after falling behind by as much as 6-2. Muniz, along with Elizarraraz and Sun all scored in the second half, with Muniz and Ortuno completing the 6-0 run to end the game. The defense did a stellar job, with Sun leading a 17-steal performance by the team with six thefts. Freshman Rodrigo Baca (Kennedy HS) posted four steals, while Ortuno accounted for three steals and four assists on the offensive side of the game. Jenkins recorded a season-high 12 saves to guide the Falcons.