The Northern Elite Lions finished 3rd in this year's Winterfest Tournament in Orange County, California. The Lions finished the tournament with a 4-1 record, their only loss coming to the eventual champion Anteaters on Saturday night.
After their loss to the Anteaters, the Lions came back with vengeance against a strong Costa Mesa team who tallied a number of goals early on. However, the speed of Northern Elite proved to be too much for Costa Mesa to handle late in the game as the Lions ran away with the game in the middle of the 3rd quarter. A similar swan song occurred in the consolation game against ORCA.
A talented, and well sized, ORCA team came to play in the first quarter as the only goal was scored by Jace Blazensky early on despite multiple opportunities for Northern Elite to take the lead. However, just as soon as Northern Elite won the second quarter sprint, the game was quickly 3-0. Jace Blazensky factoring in on all of the first three goals, scoring two and assisting Brandon Plihal with a poeticly justified feather pass across the middle after setting the goalie and beating a middle defender with perfect placement. But, Northern Elite wasnt finished.
Jed Rosen once again led the team on the defensive end earning Defensive MVP for the Lions and factoring in on numerous counter attacks by stealing the ball from ORCA a number of times. The defense displayed was stingy and difficult to break as the only goal that would come for ORCA was an outside shot that managed to squeeze past Berquist, the eventual MVP of the team, and hit the side bar and trickle in.
At half, Northern Elite led 7-0 but the highlight was not the score, it was the passing. Brandon Plihal found George Archbold, the eventual Offensive MVP for the Lions, on a cross pass to tap in. The pass sailed perfectly to the stretched arm of Archbold who finished neatly and left the goalie helpless. Another moment of sheer brilliance was displayed as Brandon Plihal was on the receiving end of a pass coming from Nick Reed who fired from the half tank mark across the entire pool to place the ball perfectly to the rising Plihal who just had to tap it in for the goal. Northern Elite represented northern California water polo well with a 11-1 final. The continued great passing and aggressive defense, coupled with the strength of their counter attack earned the Northern Elite Lions compliments from the head UCI coach and a number of the opposing team fans. A truly remarkable performance from a team of individuals who have so much room to grow.