BURBANK — At times, the dominance of the Crescenta Valley High girls' water polo team in the Pacific League seems a forgone conclusion.
On Thursday evening in the familiar setting of the Pacific League Tournament Championship at Burbank High, it was once again a showcase of Crescenta Valley's mastery of league opposition as it soundly defeated Arcadia, 11-1, for its 64th consecutive league win to close out a perfect league season and an outright title.
Just two days prior, upstart Glendale had given the Falcons (20-3, 8-0 in league) a bit of an early scare in what ended as a 15-8 semifinal win for Crescenta Valley. There was no such early lull for the Falcons against Arcadia (12-7, 6-2), however.
Led by Alex Garas' phenomenal showing of a game-high six goals and 10 steals, the Falcons flew out to a 5-0 lead at the end of the first quarter, one in which they outshot the Apaches, 13-2.
Garas was a one-man gang, scoring four goals and nabbing four steals in the stanza.
"I was very proud with my team and how we came out," said Garas, a sophomore who led a Falcons' defensive attack that had 23 steals on the day with 15 in the first half. "We had a long talk on Tuesday – a long talk about how we've gotta go out there against Arcadia in the first quarter and play hard, not let them score."
Arcadia didn't score until 1:44 remained in the first half with Crescenta Valley leading, 7-1.
"[Starting strong is] pretty much what I harped on since Tuesday when Glendale came out and surprised us," Falcons Coach Ricky Mulcahey said.
Falcons goalie Allison Smith also turned in an outstanding game with 10 saves and five steals, while Kaitlyn Moguel tallied three goals, seven steals and two assists. Hanna Zicardi added a goal and an assist and Roxy Jackson-Gain also scored a goal.
But it was the defense that clearly led the way, with the Falcons owning an 8-1 halftime lead and a 10-1 advantage after three periods, as the game was done for all intents and purposes following the first-quarter dominance that continued the Falcons' overwhelming run through league play.
"I've had many older friends who were here and it was kind of passed down to Kaitlyn and I to keep [the winning streak] going," Garas said.
Crescenta Valley's average margin of victory in its eight league triumphs was 10 goals and from the start of Thursday's match it was clear another lopsided game was at hand.
Just 51 seconds into the match, Zicardi scored and, at the 4-minute mark, Garas scored from the perimeter for a 2-0 lead that served as about as anti-climatic of a game-winner as one could imagine.
A perfect Moguel pass fed Garas for a spinning score with 2:08 to go before Garas scored with 52 and 32 seconds remaining off of steals that she turned into breakaways, the first coming on an Arcadia man-advantage.
"She's a force," Mulcahey said of Garas. "For her being only a sophomore and having two years left, I couldn't ask for better. She's just an all-around athlete and talent."
Now, however, Crescenta Valley must quickly transform from a Pacific League stalwart that was an overwhelming favorite to a CIF Southern Section Division II playoff team that will no doubt be an underdog as it's been unranked all season after having jumped all the way up from Division IV in its last campaign.
"It's definitely going to be more challenging than it was last year," said Garas, a reigning All-Area pick who keyed the Falcons' CIF semifinal run last season. "But I think if we practice well and we focus, we can be successful."