The Plank: Women's water polo, men's cross country battle for state titles

OCC freshman attacker Macy Andrade (#18) takes a shot (top right) in OCC’s home win over Cypress College on Oct. 12. Freshman quarterback Baylor Ayres (#6) takes the shotgun snap (center left) in OCC’s win over Santa Monica City College at Lebard Stadium on Sept. 24. Coast goalkeeper Annabelle Sherman makes a save (bottom right) in OCC’s home win over Cypress College on Oct. 12. 

The Orange Coast College women’s water polo squad added to its historic season by winning the Southern California Regional Championships, and will now advance to the first round of the CCCAA State Championships at Southwestern College on Friday. 

In their first trip to the state finals since 2005, the Pirates will first face off with the Northern California No.2-seed San Joaquin Delta College in the CCCAA Semifinals on Friday. On the other side of the bracket, Santa Barbara City College will take on the NorCal No. 1-seed and defending state champions West Valley College. The winners of each bracket will meet in the CCCAA State Finals on Saturday to crown the 2022 State Champions. 

To get this far, the Pirates have relied on several clutch performances from sophomore goalkeeper Annabelle Sherman, who had 18 saves against SBCC in the Socal Regional Championships on Nov.12. Since the Orange Empire Conference Championships, Sherman has posted an average of 19 saves a contest. 

In order to get past the Mustangs on Friday, the Pirates main objective will have to be limiting San Joaquin sophomore attacker Natalie Johnston. This season, Johnston has led the entire state in both steals (102) and assists (94), while also scoring 31 goals for the Mustangs. 

Men’s Cross Country qualifies for CCCAA State Championship meet

Coast cross country is set to compete at the CCCAA State Championship Meet on Saturday, after a strong ninth-place finish at the SoCal Regional Championship Meet on Nov. 4. 

At the Socal Regionals, sophomore Pirate Brian Soriano-Guzman led OCC to a team score of 240, narrowly finishing above 10th place Saddleback College with 241, by finishing 16th individually in the Men’s 4-Mile Run. Sophomores Hector Espana and August Garcia chipped in as well by placing 32nd and 45th individually. 

The CCCAA State Meet will be hosted by Clovis Community College at Woodward Park in Fresno, starting at 10 a.m. on Saturday.  

OCC Football may have future answer at quarterback in Ayres

Despite Coast running back J.P Segura finishing fifth in the state in rushing yards per game with 112, the 3-7 Pirates averaged only 18.3 points per game this season due to a struggling passing game. 

As sophomore quarterback Brandon Cannella and freshman quarterback Baylor Ayres split time under center this season, the Pirates offense averaged just 168 passing yards per game with a 49% completion rate, 13 passing touchdowns and 13 interceptions on the year. 

However, with the Pirates squad losing only six sophomores on offense going into next year, Ayres is set to turn a corner in his sophomore season. 

“Unfortunately, we have a lot of good guys leaving but we have a lot of good guys coming back next year,” Ayres said. “After a lot of work and with the chemistry we have, watch out for OCC next year.” 

Ayres’ first opportunity under center this season came after the Pirates got off to an 0-3 start with Cannella at the helm to begin the year. In his first start against Santa Monica City College, Ayres threw for 205 yards on 18-25 completions for three touchdown passes, and added two more scores with his legs in OCC’s first win of the season. 

Since then, Ayres started in two of OCC’s three victories this season, and in the home finale win against West LA College, the freshman took over in the second half to lead OCC to its third win of the year with Segura out due to injury. 

The Coast offense still struggled at times with the freshman quarterback. Against Santa Ana College, Ayres completed only 7-17 passes for 69 yards before being benched for Cannella in the second half of a 38-0 shutout loss. However, with Ayres under center, his accuracy and arm strength allowed OCC to take far more shots downfield, which resulted in 16 completions of 20 yards or more in his limited playing time. 

Heading into next season, Ayres should be set to lead the Pirates offense as they try to improve upon their 3-7 record from this year. 

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