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Defense leads Crescenta Valley girls’ water polo past Burroughs

BURBANK — Behind its steely defense, the defending eight-time Pacific League champion Crescenta Valley High girls’ water polo team kicked off league play with an 11-6 triumph over host Burroughs on a rainy and foggy Tuesday afternoon.

The Falcons improved to 11-1 and owned a commanding 11-1 lead through three quarters thanks in part to a team-high four goals and three steals from Alex Garas.

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She and the rest of the Falcons’ starters were pulled before the fourth quarter and lost the period, 5-0.

“With our starters playing the whole time, we’ve held teams to zero goals, one goal and maybe two,” Crescenta Valley coach Ricky Mulcahey said. “We are really strong on defense this season. We have a senior goalie who’s really experienced and she’s doing well, but all the girls around are playing great team defense.”

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Crescenta Valley forced 17 turnovers, 13 via steals, and limited the Indians (4-4) to six or fewer shot attempts in each of the first three quarters.

Falcons senior goalie Allison Smith tallied seven saves in three quarters.

Maybe her best stop came with 5:54 to go in the second quarter when a kick out of Crescenta Valley’s Sydney Reil gave Burroughs the first of its two six-on-five chances.

Indians senior Bianca Sanchez had a five-yard shot stuffed by Smith, who, with the help of her teammates, kept Burroughs scoreless through the first half as the Falcons took a 7-0 lead at the break.

It wasn’t until 2:46 remained in the third quarter that the Indians finally broke through.

Sanchez, who paced her team with three goals, rifled a shot off a pass from junior Gwen Turla under the reach of Smith to give the Indians their lone score versus Crescenta Valley’s starters as the Indians shaved the deficit to 9-1.

“I think the communication was great today and the reason why we did well on defense,” Smith said. “The defense noticed when people were driving and when they were dropping and switching to whoever was being guarded. That was working very well.”

During the defensive stand, the Falcons’ offense was building a big lead.

Garas paced Crescenta Valley with two goals in the first quarter as the Falcons jumped to a 4-0 advantage, which Crescenta Valley increased to 7-0 at halftime after scores from Garas, Kaitlyn Moguel and Lexis Kawachi (two goals).

Crescenta Valley took an 11-1 lead after three quarters and saw Burroughs surge against its reserves.

Despite the score, Burroughs sophomore Emmanuela Nathan was admirable in defeat and finished with 12 saves.

“Realistically, CV is just really ahead of all the teams in league,” Burroughs coach Jacob Cook said. “I just told the girls to go ahead, play hard and fight to the end and that’s what they did.

“I’m proud of my girls. It’s a good learning experience and we’re still fighting for second in league.”

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