PASADENA — Whenever a water polo match is contested at Pasadena High, the pool itself — narrow and diminutive — is likely to become a factor.
On Tuesday afternoon, it became an advantage for the visiting team on offense and defense.
Crescenta Valley High goalie Manny Martinez scored a go-ahead tally in the second quarter that put the Falcons up for good, as they used their narrow surroundings to aid in crashing down on Pasadena scorer Will Klein en route to a 12-9 Pacific League victory over the host Bulldogs on Tuesday afternoon.
"The size of the pool certainly always throws everyone off," said Falcons Coach Jan Sakonju, whose team improved to 7-14 and 2-2 in league. "Will Klein's just a phenomenal goal scorer. Since [the pool] is so crowded, so tight, it was easier for us to double-team him. Nobody on our team could've covered him one on one."
Klein was held to two goals, both of them coming in the final period, as he scored on a five-meter shot to cut the score to 10-7 and scored again to make it 11-8, but a second comeback bid by the Bulldogs (10-6, 2-3) came up short, as Martinez' goal proved to be a momentum changer that led to too large a margin for the Bulldogs to overcome.
"It's a small pool … and I know I have a decent shot," said Martinez of his first-ever varsity goal, which came with 3:56 left in the first half. "Afterwards, that kinda helped everyone. After that we scored two or three goals quickly."
Martinez' goal came after Pasadena had tied the match at 4 on a Cooper Horn score that erased a Crescenta Valley lead that was, at one point, 3-0.
Martinez' tally also halted a scoring drought for CV of 4 minutes and 43 seconds and ignited a 4-0 run to end the half, with Brian Dertli and Leo Rostamian scoring man-advantage tallies ahead of a Nate Fernandez goal off a Gavin Hukasian assist to bring the halftime score to 8-4. Though Pasadena would mount a comeback in the second half, the margin built by the second-quarter surge was enough to hold off the Bulldogs.
For Pasadena Coach Neil Esser, while he admitted Martinez' shot was a game-changer, it was the majority of his team's shots that played just as big a role. The Bulldogs took 36 shots — 10 more than Crescenta Valley — but converted on just nine, including Klein's aforementioned five-meter.
"Our defense was solid from the start," Esser said. "The defense was good and our offense, it ran well enough that, had we been accurate enough with our shots, we would've turned that [loss] into a [win]."
Pasadena took some bad angles on shots and missed the cage entirely on other attempts, but Martinez was also on his game, garnering 17 saves, including one against a man-advantage with 57 seconds remaining that essentially clinched the match.
Pasadena also got two goals each from Andrew Phillips and Horn, while Austin Longwell, Matthew Esser and Marcus Gonzales had individual tallies.
The Bulldogs now turn their focus to an important meeting against host Burbank on Thursday that will be crucial in the race for the fourth and final automatic playoff spot in league.
Crescenta Valley got two goals apiece from Antonio Camarillo, Rostamian, Griffin Harting and Dertli, with Fernandez, Jonny Malmrose, Gavin Hukasian and, of course, Martinez scoring single goals.
"We had that planned from the beginning," said Sakonju, whose team currently occupies third place in league. "When he was warming up, I said, 'Get ready to shoot.'"