LA CAÑADA FLINTRIDGE — It's evident by the scores and the results this season that the Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy water polo team is improving.
But after a 14-8 Mission League loss to visiting Sherman Oaks Notre Dame and a performance that showed both how far the Tologs have come and how far they still need to go, first-year Sacred Heart Coach Andrea Artukovich insisted her team go even farther on Tuesday.
"If they had energy to swim afterward, they could've worked harder [in the match]," said Artukovich shortly after her Tologs finally climbed out of the pool after swimming extra laps following their defeat.
A disastrous start and an even worse conclusion proved to be the undoing of the Tologs, as they fell behind, 5-0, early in the second period and gave up six unanswered goals in the final period to expunge any comeback hopes after bringing the score to 8-6 at the end of the third.
"I need to get the girls on the same track," Artukovich said. "We need to work together.
"Motivation is a huge thing."
And when the Tologs were motivated, it showed in a rally thought saw them outscore the Knights (3-2 in league) by a 6-3 margin in a span beginning in the second period and encompassing the third period.
"I told them if they want it, they're gonna have to work for it," Artukovich said. "And they started working for it."
No matter Tuesday's outcome, Artukovich and the Tologs have already put together an improved slate from last season and recent seasons in general. Sacred Heart, which lost to Notre Dame, 18-0, in its previous meeting last season, is now 2-8 overall and 1-4 in league. Granted, it's hardly exceptional, but it's a far cry compared to last season's 0-13-1 overall mark and 0-10 league showing. Over the previous three seasons combined, Sacred Heart has gone just 5-39-1 and 1-29 in league.
"This year, we actually have a team, they actually like each other," Artukovich said. "They're bonding."
The team showed itself when Kelly Dow finally broke the shutout with a lop shot with 4:21 left in the second quarter to cut the score to 5-1.
Sacred Heart's Hannah Walleck, who had a match-high five goals, made it 5-2 on a score with 1:24 remaining in the first half and then scored on a five-meter with 4:55 to go in the third.
The Tologs' biggest highlight of the match cut the score to 7-4, as goalie Elizabeth Hinkley, who had six saves and a pair of assists, launched a shot from just beyond mid-pool as the shot clock was winding down and scored with 4:03 left in the third. Sacred Heart's fans erupted and Hinkley, beaming from ear to ear, fell back into the water in celebration.
Walleck's next goal brought the score to 7-5 later in the third and Dow scored off a Hinkley pass to keep it two a two-goal deficit with 31 ticks left on the third-quarter clock.
But as the fourth-quarter came, the Tologs' comeback hopes went. By the time Walleck scored again with 53 seconds left in the match, Notre Dame has already run up an insurmountable 14-6 advantage via a six-goal run.
Thus, there were a fair share of Tologs highlights, but still plenty of room for improvement, starting with the basics.
"The team needs a system," said Artukovich, whose team hosts Louisville next Tuesday in its return to action. "Fundamentals is the main part."