BURBANK — After three quarters of even play, Tuesday afternoon's Pacific League girls' water polo match between Crescenta Valley High and host Glendale was still anybody's game.
But the fourth quarter belonged to the Falcons, as does sole possession of first place in league after their 11-7 win at Burroughs High, in which Crescenta Valley scored the last four goals of the match and kept the Nitros off the scoreboard for nearly the final 10 minutes.
"In the fourth quarter, I think we relaxed more," said Crescenta Valley's Kim Fraisse, who led the team with four goals, including one in the decisive fourth-quarter run. "At first, we were just getting nervous because it was a really close game and we were adjusting to that. When we started relaxing and running [our offense] everything just came out better."
Glendale was the stronger team in the third quarter, which saw the Nitros outscore Crescenta Valley, 4-2, and take its first lead of the match, 7-6, on a long-range lob by Alique Berberian with 2:59 left.
But Crescenta Valley, the fourth-ranked team in CIF Southern Section Division V, tied the game with seven seconds left in the third quarter on a close-range finger-roll shot by Adrienne Ingalla, who got out ahead of the Nitros' recovery defense on a counter-attack to receive a long pass from goalkeeper Dakota Davy-Bertram (seven saves).
The Falcons (16-2, 2-0 in league) got the only goal they would need in the fourth quarter at the 6:38 mark when Stefanie Loporchio rattled a shot off the crossbar and Sabrina Hatzer got an easy putback for the goal.
Christine Cho (three goals) scored her first of two fourth-quarter goals on a pump fake and shot into the left corner from the right side nearly three minutes into the period to put Crescenta Valley up, 9-7, and Fraisse firmly established the Falcons' lead with a mid-range turnaround shot with 3:34 left.
Glendale took eight shots in the final period, but couldn't get any solid looks inside and the long-range success the Nitros enjoyed in the first three quarters quickly dried up. The Falcons' other goalkeeper, Shelby Gregg, who split time with Davy-Bertram evenly in goal, had four fourth-quarter saves and six overall.
"They got two goals pretty quickly [in the fourth quarter] and we were forced to play a more aggressive style of game, which is more high-risk" said Nitros Coach Forest Holbrook, whose team, ranked 10th in Division V, fell to 2-1 in league. "You go from it being a two-goal game and us not getting the bounces we want to it being a three- or four-goal game.
"I thought going into the fourth quarter it was anyone's game and they were able to steal this one from us. It's up to us to win the rest of our [league] games so we can play them again in league finals."
Crescenta Valley staked itself to an early lead by scoring the first three goals of the match and keeping Glendale off the scoreboard for the first 6:38. Fraisse scored twice in the opening quarter and Rachel Krebsbach added another tally.
But Glendale began to heat up from distance, as Kristina Terzyan scored two of her three goals to bring the score to 3-2 by quarter's end. All but one of the Nitros' goals came from the perimeter.
"They have pretty solid set defense and they were running a zone on us, so when they're giving you those outside shots you've got to take it," said Holbrook, who got third-quarter goals from Desiree Garcia Solano, Terzyan, Arpineh Ohanian and Berberian and 13 saves on the day from Mariquita Lopez. "Once we figured out that those outside shots were going, we just had to go with it."
"Towards the end, they went back to a press and it gave us some troubles, as their set defense was winning the matchups."
Crescenta Valley Coach Pete Loporchio gave the Nitros credit for making some tough shots from distance, but said his team's improved shot selection in the fourth quarter was the key.
"I think the big key for us is decision making and execution, trying to push the tempo of the game and making good decisions with quality shots at the end," Loporchio said. "I think we were better at it [in the fourth] and it's just getting those shots to fall."