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Crescenta Valley girls' water polo's unbeaten league run ended by Arcadia in championship match

ARCADIA — An amazing unbeaten Pacific League run finally came to a heartbreaking end.

The top-seeded Crescenta Valley girls’ water polo team entered the Pacific League Tournament title match against No. 3 Arcadia with a 79-match winning streak, but with 1:36 left, the Apaches held a two-goal lead.

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The Falcons tried to battle back, testing Apaches goalkeeper Jacqueline Collier the entire fourth quarter.

Crescenta Valley was unable to break through, and Collier’s five fourth-quarter saves ended the Falcons’ unbeaten run as Arcadia won, 12-10, on Thursday at Arcadia.

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“We practice a lot of shooting because we know Arcadia’s goalie is really good,” Crescenta Valley coach Ricky Mulcahey said. “She stopped a lot of our one-on-nobody’s or our two-on-ones and those are just momentum breakers because we put a lot of energy in our counter-attacking, and for us to miss, our momentum’s going [one way] and Arcadia’s going the other direction. So it’s hard to sprint after a sprint, so those runs take all the wind out of us when we miss those opportunities.”

Collier finished with 12 saves for the Apaches, who pulled ahead to a two-goal lead with 3:09 remaining before the Falcons pulled to within 11-10 with 1:58 left.

Arcadia’s Cary Gamez sealed the win with a goal with 1:36 left.

“Collier has had a phenomenal tournament because she had probably the best game of the season on Tuesday against Burroughs and then she had another phenomenal game tonight,” Arcadia coach Janice Clark said. “A couple of those looked like Crescenta Valley should’ve had it in and she got on to it, so she’s been so valuable.”

Despite the loss, Crescenta Valley (7-1 in league) clinched its 10th, straight Pacific League title and Arcadia (6-2) sealed thesecond-place spot in league with the tournament victory.

“By getting our win on Tuesday against Burroughs, that gave us the second-place CIF entry,” Clark said. “By beating Crescenta Valley, we would solidify second place by ourselves, but we would still have the second-place CIF entry, so we could just play it for the game itself and not worry about any other ramifications. And I think that was very freeing for us.”

The Falcons struggled to overcome early fouls and gifted the Apaches two five-meter penalty shots to trail, 3-1, at 3:26 in the first.

“It’s unfortunate,” Mulcahey said. “These girls kind of take it to heart on one little mistake. It gets in their brain and they can’t really shrug it off.

“We came out strong and Arcadia’s a good team. We knew that, and we tried to prepare for them the best we can. Unfortunately, we came out at the bottom today.”

But Crescenta Valley roared back late on a number of counter-attacks in the quarter to tie it at 3 off a pair of goals from Roxy Jackson-Gain.

The Apaches started the second quarter with a 4-3 lead, but the Falcons scored four unanswered goals with a pair from Jackson-Gain to pull ahead, 7-4, with 3:30 left in the half.

Arcadia responded with two goals, but a goal from Hanna Ziccardi with 1:48 left maintained the Crescenta Valley lead at halftime, 8-6.

“We scored a goal pretty early in the quarter and we just kept with the momentum and tried to not let them score on us because that would push us back,” said Jackson-Gain, who finished with four goals and three assists. “We were just trying to calm down and run the offense we knew how to run.”

The Apaches outscored the Falcons, 3-2, in the third quarter and tied the score at 9 with 2:07 left.

“We noticed that Crescenta Valley had a tendency to do a three-way drive and have someone pop into the center, so we tried to focus on being able to cover that better,” Clark said. “Then, when we were transitioning, we had a few misfires on our passes that let them counter back against us. So we were focusing on making sure that we didn’t let those keep happening, so kind of a two-pronged on our own thing and on their thing.”

Apache Chloe O’Connor, who scored a match-high six goals, gave Arcadia the 10-9 lead with 5:37 left before she added another a minute later.

“I hope it wakes my team up and shows them that we’re not invincible, that we’re not the almighty CV that everybody thinks we kind of are, but we can be beaten,” Mulcahey said. “Hopefully they can realize that tonight and on Friday we can come back to practice and have a good day.”

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