Cypress held off a game Western squad to close the Empire League boys water polo season with a 15-12 win over the Pioneers last week at Western High. The win clinched third place for the Centurions, who opened the CIF-SS playoffs on Tuesday at Ocean View High. Cypress was led by Ripken Saldana who had five goals and Sooho Choi, who added three. Marko Ilincic, Garrett Potter and Alberto Cortez each had two goals for Cypress. The Pioneers were led by Raul Gonzlaez, who had four goals and Parker Stephenson and Nick Dergel, who each chipped in three goals. Cypress led the match 12-10 heading into the fourth quarter but went on a 3-0 run to stretch the lead to 15-10. Saldana scored the first goal to start the run. Western tried to respond when Gonzalez got off a solid shot from an angle, but Cypress goalie Weston Spoon was able to make the save. Cortes scored about a minute later to extend the lead to 14-10. He fired a quick shot off a crossing pass from Nolen Verdun, that gave Cortes an open shot. Western finally broke the run with a goal by Dargel, who fired a shot from the left side after a Cypress exclusion. The goal cut the lead to 15-11. Brandon Heaston scored the final goal for Western with 12 seconds left in the match. Despite the loss, the season was a huge turnaround for the Pioneers, who had not won a league match since 2012, but went 2-3 this year to finish fourth in league. The Pioneers also went 24-5 overall, which was a school record for wins in a season in boys water polo. “I am very proud of the effort my team put in this year,” Head Coach Don Luethke said. For most of the year, the Pioneers had just one reserve player to bring off the bench in varsity games. Cypress was the No. 3 team out of the Empire League and opened the CIF-SS Division 6 Playoffs on Tuesday (after press time) at Ocean View High. Ocean View was the No. 2 team out of the Golden West League. Kennedy was the No. 2 team out of the Empire League, they opened the CIF-SS Division 6 Playoffs on Thursday at San Bernadino High, at 5 p.m.