LA CAÑADA FLINTRIDGE — While a win over Prep League-foe La Salle High wasn't to be on Wednesday afternoon, the Flintridge Prep boys' water polo team was able to tread water long enough to keep the league opener for both teams interesting for more than a half.
That in itself was enough to convince Prep Coach Dan Hare and assistant Alex Supple that the Rebels, who went winless in league a year ago, have made strides over the nonleague portion of the season and have the program moving in the right direction, despite Wednesday's 13-3 loss.
"When we played them in a [preseason] scrimmage, the entire first quarter was just them countering on us," said Supple, whose team replaced seven graduated seniors with 11 freshmen additions. "We got beat out by stronger, more experienced players and held on as long as we could with the young guys that we have in there. We'll get better."
Playing as guests in their own pool after host La Salle (11-2) had requested the venue be changed to Flintridge Prep, the Rebels' first-half offensive production consisted of a single goal from Jack Purvis.
But Prep's defense, led by five saves from Donny Duckworth, held the Lancers to just five tallies before halftime and kept the score close at 5-1 through the first three minutes of the third quarter.
The Lancers, who were led by seven goals from Ryan Deneen, then scored three unanswered goals before Alexander Blaine scored for Prep with 1:05 left in the third quarter to make the score 8-2 heading into the fourth.
That's where La Salle, which finished fourth in league last year, really began to put the game away, reeling off three more unanswered tallies to go up, 11-2, at the 2:58 mark.
Ethan Vandeventer closed out the scoring for Prep (5-7) on a five-meter shot with 1:31 left in the game.
"We were playing some clamp-down defense, but I just think we really just sputtered on offense and that carried over to the second half," Hare said. "When we have a little bit more experience and a little bit more bodies to throw around, we'll take care of these guys, but it was a tough one today.
"A larger more experienced team controlled the ball with a lot of water [in the pool] and a lot of things going on, so we got a little disoriented after the second half. We'll get them next time."