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Strong finish keeps Eastlake in front of Hilltop in water polo standings Phillip Brents | Fri, Oct 14 2011 02:14 PM

As soon as the Hilltop Lancers stepped out of the Southwestern College pool after a 16-6 drubbing at the hands of the three-time defending Mesa League champion Eastlake Titans on Sept. 14, they vowed that a different Lancer squad would show up for the teams’ Mesa League rematch on Wednesday.

Hilltop kept its vow and gave Eastlake all it could handle before the Titans eventually pulled away for a 17-11 victory at the Parkway pool.

“Even though the final score might not suggest it, this was a very competitive game,” HHS coach John Salts said. “I’m proud of my team. The first time we played them, the game was over in the first three minutes. This time, we were battling to the final seconds.”

EHS coach Chris Barrick didn’t need any prodding on the subject of the competitive nature of Wednesday’s rematch. “I give Hilltop credit,” he said. “They came out fired up and ready to win a championship and we weren’t. Once we started leaning on them defensively, we opened it up.”

The Titans (11-7 overall, 4-0 in league play) twice had three-goal leads in the first half but each quarter ended with Lancer goals to keep the hosts within striking distance. Stuart Sokil tied the game at 2 at the first quarter break and put in a rebound of his five-meter penalty shot to pull Hilltop (8-7, 1-2) to within 6-4 on the scoreboard nine seconds before halftime.

But Eastlake clearly showed it remains the Metro Conference’s elite team. After the Lancers struck for the first goal of the second half to trim the EHS advantage to 6-5, Adam Hilborn and Josue Alvarez fired in unanswered goals to return the visitors’ lead to three goals.

After Hilltop closed to within 8-7 with 2:17 left in the third quarter on a nifty backhand shot by Luis Ontiveros, two goals by Hilborn and one by Daniel Lord finally gave the Titans some much needed breathing room at 11-7.

A tip-in by Ontiveros made the score 11-8 at the end of the third quarter but that was as close as the Lancers got as Eastlake ruled the waves with six fourth-quarter goals. Despite the Titans’ final six-goal margin of victory, Barrick said he was never comfortable with his team’s lead at any point in the game.

The Lancers will take that as a compliment. “We played an elite team and elite teams capitalize on mistakes,” Salts said. “They scored on every one of ours.”

Hilborn led the Titans with six goals while Dylan Chase had four goals, Josue Alvarez had three goals, Daniel Lord scored twice and Mike Tong and Eric Hum each scored once.

Hilltop received two goals each from five players in an all-around team showing: Sokil, Ontiveros, Gio Rude, Rodrigo Perez and Tanner Franklin. Carlos Uribe had the final goal of the game for the Lancers.

Connor Kober and Josue Macias combined for 17 saves for Hilltop. Winner Rhett McGinty had eight.

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