The Saddleback men's water polo team split two games at the Orange Empire Conference Championships on Friday in Fullerton. The Gauchos will play Riverside City College for third place on Saturday.
Saddleback had a sensational opener on Friday, breezing past host Fullerton College 18-8, to advance to the tournament semifinals. The Gauchos received nine goals from Sylvain Reynard, who nearly doubled his season total in one game. Reynard entered the contest with 10 goals for the season but scored at least two goals in every quarter in guiding the Gauchos to an easy win. Reynard scored twice in the opening quarter as Saddleback took a 5-2 lead on the Hornets. He scored two more times in the second quarter as the Gaucho lead ballooned to 9-3 at the half. Reynard again equaled the task with two more goals in the third quarter as Fullerton closed the gap to 12-8 through three quarters. He then put the game out of reach in the fourth quarter with three goals as Saddleback scored six unanswered goals in the final quarter.
Saddleback played gamely in game two against Golden West College before falling to the Rustlers, 17-10. In the game, Matt Roche led the auchos with five goals while the Gauchos and Rustlers each scored six times in the second half. Golden West entered the game 18-1-1 overall and ranked No. 1 in the latest KAP7/CCCAA Coaches Poll. It was the closest game for Golden West since an 8-8 tie against Los Angeles Valley College in mid-October.
Saddleback will face Riverside City College in the third place game at 10:20 AM on Saturday in Fullerton. The Gauchos fell to Riverside 13-8 back on October 24 in OEC play.
Saddleback will find out Sunday morning whether or not it qualifies for the Southern California Regional Tournament. If so, it would be the second straight year of qualifying after an eight-year hiatus from 2009-2016.