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Flintridge Prep girls’ water polo turns to experience in CIF playoff victory

A season ago, the Flintridge Prep girls’ water polo team made history by advancing to a CIF championship match for the first time.

Though Flintridge Prep came up short in its quest to win the title, it gained plenty of experience. It’s a factor the Rebels hope might put them in line for another lengthy playoff run for a second straight season.

Flintridge Prep began its postseason journey on a positive note Tuesday, as it received a balanced scoring attack in a 19-6 victory against Louisville in a CIF Southern Section Division VI first-round match at Pasadena Poly.

Flintridge Prep (14-9) will travel to face Western (19-9; No. 3 Golden West League), which earned an 11-5 win against Canyon Springs on Tuesday, in a second-round match Thursday at a time to be determined.

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The Rebels, who reached the Division VII championship match last season, received five goals from Natalie Kaplanyan and four from Makena Walklett to eliminate Louisville (12-14).

“I think it’s a case in which we are picking up where we left off from last year,” said Flintridge Prep coach Andrew Phillips, whose team finished second in the Prep League behind Pasadena Poly. “We did lose several seniors to graduation, but we still have that core group in tact.

“Every year is different, yet they find a way to figure things out. Today, we settled in and got into a groove. It’s just about being able to recognize your opportunities when it comes to getting a steal or shooting.”

Flintridge Prep never trailed, building a 12-2 halftime advantage.

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Kaplanyan recorded her third goal with 1:13 remaining in the second quarter to give the Rebels a 10-2 lead.

“I think there’s been a lot of improvement since last year,” Kaplanyan said. “You see everybody coming in and ready to step it up.

“Last year, we learned a lot and we want to use that to take the next step of winning CIF. We did a lot of things well today, like shooting from the perimeter.”

Walklett completed her hat trick when she scored to give Flintridge Prep a 9-2 lead with 1:40 remaining in the first half.

“We came in needing to keep a clear mind,” Walklett said. “We needed to pick out who the best shooters on Louisville were and make any adjustments.

“You come into the playoffs ready to face good teams. We learned that last year. We just want to keep it going and try to redeem ourselves.”

Flintridge Prep received three goals from Elise Desjarlais and two apiece from Isabel Simons, Mona Patterson and Gracie McKiernan .

Louisville, which received an at-large berth after finishing fifth in the tough Mission League, got three goals from Sara Ghadban.

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Flintridge Prep goalkeeper Lauren Bennett finished with 11 saves while playing the first three quarters. Reserve goalkeeper Liana Morrissey registered seven saves in the fourth quarter for the Rebels.

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