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Flintridge Prep girls water polo dispatches top seed, advances to semifinals

Photo Gallery: Flintridge Prep girls water polo team takes second in CIF SS Div. VII championship match
Natalie Kaplanyan and Flintridge Prep took on top-seed Laguna Hills in a CIF Division VI quarterfinal mtatch Saturday at Pasadena Poly.
(File Photo)

It’s been another memorable postseason run for the Flintridge Prep girls’ water polo team.

One that found Flintridge Prep on the doorstep of advancing to the semifinals for the second straight season.

First, Flintridge Prep had the huge task of competing against Laguna Hills, the top seed in the division.

Flintridge Prep matched Laguna Hillls’ talent, as it got a match-high seven goals from Natalie Kaplanyan and 12 saves from goalkeeper Lauren Bennett to register an 11-9 home win Saturday in a CIF Southern Section Division VI quarterfinal match at Pasadena Poly.

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Flintridge Prep (16-9) will meet fourth-seeded Mark Keppel in a semifinal contest Wednesday at a site and time to be determined. Flintridge Prep will be the designated home team.

The Rebels, who advanced to the Division VII championship match last season, led virtually the entire way Saturday.

“We like the way we are playing and we are doing a great job at executing on offense and defense,” said Flintridge Prep coach Andrew Phillips, whose team earlier had postseason victories against Louisville and Western. “We had a very, very physical match the other day with Western and it gave us a taste of what to expect moving ahead. It set the stage in terms of how to deal with it

“It’s a good reassurance to beat the top seed and that’s a fantastic team over there. We had the confidence we could do something good today. Lets see what we can do next.”

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Flintridge Prep held an 8-7 lead entering the fourth quarter.

The Hawks (23-10) tied it at 8 on a goal by Olivia Crocker with 5:38 remaining in regulation.

Kaplanyan gave the Rebels the lead for good after she scored off a rebound to make it 9-8 with 5:22 left. Kaplanyan scored on Flintridge Prep’s next possession to extend the advantage to 10-8 with 4:54 to play.

Laguna Hills, which took second in the Sea View League, closed to within 10-9 on a goal by Alaina Staph (team-high six goals) with 3:45 remaining.

Kaplanyan closed out the scoring with 3:32 to go.

“It was a little nerve-wracking heading into the game, but then we started to get into a groove,” said Kaplanyan, who helped the Rebels finish second in the Prep League. “It was important to either be tied or up one or two goals because they have a good team.

“We knew going into the fourth quarter that we had a chance to win and it’s good to be back in the semifinals again.”

Bennett took control in the cage, turning back the Hawks.

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“It can be stressful being a goalkeeper in a game like this,” Bennett said. “It’s so cool right now and we’re happy.

“We’ve played some teams like this before and that helped us get ready. We just had to stay confident and in our zone.”

Flintridge Prep received two goals from Isabel Simons and one apiece from Makena Walklett and Paige Nixon and three steals from Mona Patterson.

Laguna Hills got two goals from Crocker and one from Grace Warner.

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