LAKE ELSINORE — Pick a stat, any stat, and there’s little denying the dominant effort turned in by the Crescenta Valley High girls’ water polo team Saturday.
The defending CIF Southern Section Division V champion Falcons earned advancement to their fourth consecutive semifinal appearance behind a lockdown defense that helped spur an 11-4 victory over host Temescal Canyon in the divisional quarterfinals.
With the victory, the third-seeded Falcons (24-6) qualified for Wednesday’s divisional semifinal at 4 p.m. at Whittier College versus No. 2 Warren (19-9), the San Gabriel Valley League champion. The Bears mauled Los Padres League runner-up Santa Ynez, 20-5, on Saturday.
“We were aware where their girls were and we shifted our defense around them,” Falcons second-year Coach Brent Danna said. “When they moved, we stair-stepped to guard them and forced either turnovers or tough perimeter shots.”
Crescenta Valley forced 23 turnovers versus 17 shots allowed against Sunbelt League champion Temescal Canyon (16-15), and held the Titans scoreless for the game’s first 8 minutes and 26 seconds.
The Titans were zero for two on six-on-five opportunities, while the Falcons were five of seven.
One of the critical cogs in Danna’s defense was senior Ashley Taylor, who was brilliant in finishing with four goals, three assists and six steals.
Taylor played lead defense against Temescal Canyon’s top scorer, junior Kora Wade.
The Titans driver, who scored five goals in Temescal Canyon’s 11-2 win over Citrus Valley on Wednesday, was held to one goal and was consistently shooting from outside of five meters.
“When I’m in the pool, there’s a part of me that feels like I have them, but I’m not really sure because I’ve never played against her,” Taylor said. “We focus on defense, but honestly, I don’t know. I don’t think as much about a plan. I just go out there and play the game and try to stop whoever I’m guarding.”
The Falcons led, 3-0, after seven minutes behind goals from Natalie Krebsbach, Elissa Arnold and Taylor, while the defense forced eight turnovers and surrendered only two shots.
By the time Titans senior co-captain Vanessa Beyle scored at 5:34 in the second quarter, the Falcons had already tallied four goals and eventually netted all the offense they needed in leading, 5-2, at the half.
Crescenta Valley won the third quarter, 4-2, and led, 9-4, after three.
Maybe no series was more representative of the contest than one that took place with less than two minutes remaining in the third. The Titans were granted a six-on-five opportunity after a kick out of Taylor.
Yet, a set of passes around the Falcons’ defensive perimeter resulted in a steal from Krebsbach (one goal, one steal and two assists) with 1:40 remaining.
Crescenta Valley was then awarded its own man-advantage the other way on an ejection of Taylor Edminston.
The foul was cashed in with a goal from Audrey Taylor (two goals, four steals and one assist), who was assisted by Brynn Fernandez at 1:16. Audrey Taylor’s score gave the visitor’s a 9-3 advantage.
The Falcons’ goaltending duo of Mackenzie Drewe and Tiffany Duarte also added to the defensive charge, as each finished with three steals.
“It was definitely about communication and awareness on defense,” said Arnold, who is heading to her fourth semifinal after finishing with two goals, two steals and one assist. “The emphasis was on defense. That’s what we build and work on during those monotonous practices.
“Going through the motions every day, being sure we’re sound on defense gets you results like today.”