BURROUGHS HIGH — With senior-laden squads, there is a palpable sense of urgency with the Burroughs High and Pasadena girls' water polo teams this season.
The fact that both programs will lose a large number of impact players to graduation, the Indians and Bulldogs realize that this year will likely be their best chance to vie for a Pacific League championship.
With that motivation, the teams met Thursday in a league showdown. Although Burroughs was able to take a sizable lead in the early going, it had to hold off a surging Pasadena squad to notch a 9-7 victory.
"We have a group with a lot of seniors who have been playing together for a while," said Burroughs senior driver Sam Buliavac. "We really realize that we're gone after this year and we have to get the job done. But we think that we have the talent to hopefully do it this year."
Buliavac provided a spark for Burroughs (14-2, 2-0 in league) on offense, as she tallied a match-high five goals. Teammate Savannah Simmons added two and Violeta Oganeysan and Erika Green had one apiece.
Five of Burroughs' goals came on man-advantage situations.
Unfortunately for the Bulldogs (9-5, 0-1), a challenging first half forced them to play catch-up against the Indians.
"For a while now we've been working on different things, and it's just taking a while to put things together," Pasadena Coach Jennie Jacobsen-Huse said. "But once we get going, and we know where we're going, and all of that, we play well. It's just a matter of putting it together a little sooner."
Goals were at a premium in the first quarter. The only tally in the frame came from Buliavac at the 4:48 mark. Bulldogs goalkeeper Alegra Hueso (10 saves) made a block on a hard shot, however, the rebound dropped in front of Buliavac who rifled the ball in from point-blank range.
Pasadena, which is ranked ninth in CIF Southern Section Division V, missed all five of its shots in the first quarter.
The opening minutes of the second quarter proved frustrating for the Indians, as their first four possessions resulted in turnovers. That allowed Pasadena to tie the score at 1 with 6:17 left on a lob by Emma Dodd that sailed over the head of Burroughs keeper Ahsha Earwood (eight saves).
But Burroughs got back on track, finding the back of the goal on its next three consecutive shots. It also received a late score from Buliavac to take a 5-1 advantage into halftime.
"Truly, I have not seen them play as well as they did in the first three quarters of the game," Burroughs Coach Danny Garcia said of the Indians. "They were playing with more intensity and they were doing things better than they have all season. I was even surprised with the way they were playing."
Four consecutive goals by Burroughs to start the third quarter and it looked as if the Indians were on their way to a rout with an 8-3 lead with 1:56 remaining. The Bulldogs' Dodd did score with 16 seconds left to make it a four-goal game heading into the fourth.
However, it was Pasadena which seemed to grab the momentum in the fourth. Two straight scores by Kati Woods and Daniela Garcia brought the Bulldogs to within two, 8-6, with 4:51 remaining.
A quick rebuttal by Burroughs' Simmons was followed by a score from Pasadena's Madaline Pirrone with 2:54 left to again cut the advantage to two, 9-7.
The Bulldogs had their share of opportunities late in the fourth, including a shot by Pirrone that hit the near post.
"We knew it was going to be a hard game," Jacobsen-Huse said. "But I think we're in reach of beating this team, and many of the other teams in the Pacific League."
Dodd and Pirrone had two goals each, while Lydia Kerns, Works and Garcia added one each.