ARCADIA — For both the Pasadena High and La Salle boys' water polo teams, the 2012 nonleague season has marked a campaign of growth as each squad is set to embark upon the start of league play.
Yet, the differences between the programs, which was spelled out in each team's record and reflected in the pool, was clear as the Bulldogs employed a stingy defense that complemented a well-balanced attack in a 16-6 nonleague victory at Santa Anita County Park Pool on Tuesday afternoon.
“The big thing for us this year is that we're playing well with each other,” Bulldogs Coach Neil
said. “We're talking better, we're not making as many mistakes and we're stronger both on offense and defense.”
The Bulldogs (10-4), who begin Pacific League play Tuesday versus Burbank, showed off a seemingly different strength in every quarter.
In the first period, Pasadena played tenacious defense in forcing seven turnovers, while the second and third quarters were marked with efficiency as Pasadena converted four of five shots in the second and then committed one turnover in the third. In the fourth, Pasadena goalie Nolan Berge finished with six of his match-high 12 goals.
As for the contest, Pasadena led, 10-4, at halftime and iced the game with a 6-0 third quarter.
In the period, Pasadena took advantage of a rare five-meter penalty call against La Salle goalie Jackson Ratkovich when Bulldogs senior captain Marcus Gonzalez scored with 5:50 remaining to extend Pasadena’s lead to seven.
The score was followed by a flurry, as Gonzalez, Kyle Irving and Edin Memisevic scored on consecutive offensive possessions in building Pasadena’s lead to 14-4.
In between Pasadena’s surge, La Salle only managed one shot and missed on a six-on-five opportunity.
A goal from Bulldogs senior Cooper Horn with 1:34 left was followed by a final score from Gonzalez, who laced a shot with one second remaining to successfully convert a man-advantage and cap Pasadena’s scoring at 16 goals.
“It might have looked easy, but that’s only because we’re playing much better defense,” said Gonzalez, who led all scorers with six goals. “When we’re doing well on defense, we’re able to be more aggressive on offense.”
Horn finished with three goals, while Julian Baker and Memisevic added two additional scores.
Maybe the biggest differential was shots, as Pasadena held a decisive 42-16 advantage.
Such a gap was present in the first quarter, as Pasadena outshot La Salle, 12-4, in taking a 6-2 advantage.
Despite the score, La Salle first-year Coach David Ireland said there were positives for the Lancers, whose 4-7 record is one only victory short of reaching last year’s win total.
“We really had some good play from Jackson. Listen, when we’re giving up as many one-on-one tries as we did and he was still able to make some saves, that’s impressive,” said Ireland, as La Salle prepares to open Prep League play Friday against Webb.
Ratkovich finished with 10 saves and turned in a highlight stop when he blocked Memisevic on a five-meter penalty try at the 2:18 mark in the first.