LA CAÑADA — Throughout much of the season, the improved Flintridge Prep girls’ water polo team has been ranked at or near the top of CIF Southern Section Division VII.
It’s just another step in the growth of the program over the last two seasons, which saw the Rebels qualify for the playoffs last season for the first time since 2003.
Flintridge Prep is thinking about bigger things this season and has been able to turn to a more experienced group of athletes, many whom are now playing at the club level.
One player the Rebels have been able to count on is Natalie Kaplanyan, who recorded eight goals and six steals Wednesday to power host Flintridge Prep to a 15-7 Prep League win against Mayfield.
“It’s great to see our team ranked and we’d like to go deep in the playoffs,” said Kaplanyan, a sophomore driver who picked up All-Area first-team honors last season. “Right now, it’s better to see the improvement that we are making as a team and it’s definitely made a difference.
“It starts with working hard at practice, so you are ready for the games. Today, we were able to take charge in the game after it was close in the beginning.”
Flintridge Prep (13-3, 7-1 in league) never trailed and scored three goals late in the second quarter to pull away from Mayfield.
Kaplanyan’s third goal gave the Rebels, ranked No. 2 in the division behind Katella, a 6-5 lead with 2:57 left in the first half. Mona Patterson and Kaplanyan wrapped up the first-half scoring with a goal apiece to extend the lead to 8-5.
“We’re young and we’re fast,” said Flintridge Prep coach Andrew Phillips, whose team took third in league last season. “We are much more experienced, but we are still young.
“How can we process information if we get tired? It’s also about being able to balance everything out on offense and defense. That was big to get those goals [at the end of the first half].”
Kaplanyan scored two goals in a 24-second span early in the third quarter to make it 10-6.
Flintridge Prep, which came into the match in second place behind Pasadena Poly, received three goals from Makena Walklett, two from Paige Nixon and one each from Patterson and Isabel Simons.
The Rebels converted on two of three man-advantage opportunities, both in the first quarter. Nixon made it 2-0 on a man-advantage chance with 4:41 to go in the quarter before Walklett gave the Rebels a 4-2 lead with five seconds left.
“I thought we were in control most of the time and we just wanted to spread it out more and get everybody involved,” Phillips said.