SOUTH PASADENA — Just three days after the Crescenta Valley High girls' water polo team dealt South Pasadena a lopsided shutout tournament loss, the Falcons expected it wouldn't be as easy when the Tigers were back for a rematch on Tuesday.
South Pasadena, ranked fourth in the latest CIF Southern Section Division III pool, was back at full strength after missing its coach and a handful of starters in the last meeting and this time enjoyed a home pool advantage. Nonetheless, the Falcons, ranked third in Division V, made the first three quarters of Tuesday's nonleaguer look just as one-sided, so much so that all a six-goal fourth quarter could do for the Tigers was make the final 14-8 score more respectable.
"I guess it was a little bit of a relief," Crescenta Valley sophomore center Shannon Hovanesian said of the Falcons' strong start that saw them shut out the Tigers for the first 10 minutes of the game and take a 7-1 lead into halftime. "It was really exciting because you have all that adrenaline and your heart's pumping and you're ready to play and, when you get out there and really are excellent, it's a great feeling."
Crescenta Valley (13-0), which defeated South Pasadena, 10-0, in the Conqueror Classic on Saturday, en route to winning the tournament championship, got five goals from Hovanesian and 11 saves from goalkeeper Gabriel Isacson on Wednesday, when it held the Tigers to just two goals over the first three periods.
"There was a lot of different factors coming into play [than on Saturday]," Falcons Coach Pete Loporchio said. "I was really happy with our performance in the first two or three quarters and then we were trying different combinations and so on. But [the Tigers] are going to play hard, they're going to play intense, they're well-coached and they're at home.
"We did what we had to do and they have some fabulous players on that team who are going to keep coming at you. I knew it wasn't going to be the same 10-0 [score]."
In the fourth quarter, the Tigers finally began to get into a rhythm, scoring the first two goals of the period on a short turnaround lob by Grace Algeo followed by a five-meter shot by Devin Grab (three goals), to pull within 10-4 with 5:14 left.
The Falcons quickly squelched the rally, however, by reeling off three unanswered goals. Sabrina Hatzer rebounded a teammate's miss near the cage during a six-on-five power play and poked it home before Hovanesian walked the ball in from the perimeter for a lightly contested mid-range shot. Hatzer then fed the ball to Elissa Arnold in the middle, who touched it right back out to Hatzer for a long-range bomb for a 13-4 lead with 2:57 to go.
South Pasadena would finish strong, scoring three of the last four goals of the match on two more goals by Grab and single tallies from Hannah Vaden and Liza Echeverria.
But during the first three quarters, the Tigers had trouble finding any offensive continuity. Isacson had eight first-half saves, including five in a second quarter where South Pasadena had some of its best chances to keep the game competitive.
Cody Bartlett scored for South Pasadena with 4:00 left in the second quarter to make it, 4-1, before Crescenta Valley went back up, 6-1, on a man-advantage goal by Katie Benson from Stefanie Loporchio followed by a goal to beat the shot clock by Loporchio.
South Pasadena then had its own six-on-five chance thwarted by an Isacson save with just under two minutes left. At the 1:10 mark, the Tigers saw another power play go by the wayside when their initial shot attempt and a follow-up were both missed. Finally, Sabrina Pierce got a steal and sparked a break with numbers for the Tigers, only to meet with another Isacson save that set up the Falcons with a goal on their last possession of the half.
"In all my years at CV, this might be the best defensive team we've had," Loporchio said. "They buckle down and really play defense."