SHERMAN OAKS — The Crescenta Valley High girls’ water polo team is used to being the boss in the pool in the Pacific League, but the Falcons had to play catch up in a CIF Southern Section Division III wild-card match Tuesday against Palos Verdes
League-champion Crescenta Valley was out-muscled around the five-meter area and many of its passes were picked off before a scoring threat could begin.
As a result, the Falcons stumbled to a four-goal deficit in the first quarter, then gave up three more scores before finally getting on the board.
But with every decision Crescenta Valley made, Palos Verdes quickly answered back, and the Falcons were unable to overcome the Sea Kings in falling, 18-6, at Sherman Oaks Notre Dame High.
“When my girls are asleep in the first quarter, you had to kind of jolt them to wake them up, but, honestly, I don’t think the girls mentally prepared themselves for such a physical match up,” Crescenta Valley coach Rick Mulcahey said. “It looked like from the get-go that Palos Verdes meant business. They pushed us around right away and it shocked us.”
The loss closes out the season for Crescenta Valley, which finished 13-6 after claiming its 10th consecutive league title.
“It was fun,” Mulcahey said. “These girls had a tough season ahead of them. They had a lot of different challenges within the team, within tournaments, some things didn’t go our way and stuff like that, so it took a real mental toll on us. But I tell these girls day in and day out I got their back and support no matter what.
“I’ll take this team over that Palos Verdes team that just beat us. I know if we play our top game, it’s going to look a little different than that.”
Hanna Ziccardi and Lexi Kawachi both finished with a pair of goals, while Katie Ward tallied three assists and one goal for the Falcons.
The Falcons failed on their first five passing attempts down the middle at the start of the first quarter.
All the while, the Sea Kings (12-13), an at-large team from the Bay League, swam down mid-pool with ease and took a 3-0 lead at 3:14, before they closed the first period out with a 4-0 advantage.
The Falcons were outshot in the quarter, 8-3.
“We played good pressing and defense,” Palos Verdes coach Andras Gyongyosi said. “We had good position play on offense and I think we always had an answer for their defense. They have good shooters. That was a good game.”
Palos Verdes’ tandem of Amanda Price and Victoria Barez scored first-half hat-tricks to fuel the Sea Kings to a 7-0 lead before Ziccardi put Crescenta Valley on the board with an assist from Ward with 3:34 left in the half.
Barez immediately responded 20 seconds later to give Palos Verdes an 8-1 lead.
Barez finished with six goals, Price added four and Genevieve Burda with three.
“That’s CIF,” Gyongyosi said. “You have to take it game by game. You have to play the right kind of game. Last year, we played a little bit of a difficult game, but that’s good for us, for the morale for the next game. It’s not easy because we moved up a division and in the third division, [there’s] a lot of good teams.”
The Sea Kings tacked on another goal with 1:30 left in the half before Ward found Kawachi for a goal with 35 seconds left in the half to make it a 9-2 halftime score.
“It took us a little while to get back into the rhythm of things because we’re not used to being pushed around like that,” Mulcahey said. “We’re normally the team pushing people around, so it shocked us a little bit and it dug us too deep and we couldn’t get out.”
The Sea Kings jumped out to the second half scoring five unanswered goals before Ward broke the Falcons’ drought with 3:08 left in the third to cut the Palos Verdes lead to 14-3.
Palos Verdes immediately responded before Kawachi knocked in her second goal of the game only for the Sea Kings to respond almost instantly, extending their advantage to 16-4.
Ziccardi’s second goal pulled one back for Crescenta Valley with 4:21 left, but, again Palos Verdes had an answer and took n 18-5 lead 30 seconds later.
Emma Benitez capped the scoring at 1:30 left to give Crescenta Valley’s lone victorious quarter as the Falcons outscored the Sea Kings in the fourth, 2-1.
“I told my team, ‘You know what girls, Crescenta Valley, as a team, as a program, we’re that type of team that won’t give up,’” Mulcahey said. “It doesn’t matter about the score at that point, let’s go out and have some fun and show everyone how we can actually play.’