PASADENA — With the top four already established in the Pacific League girls' water polo standings, all that was left to be decided when Glendale High met host Pasadena on Wednesday afternoon was final seeding for the upcoming league championship tournament.
Things were tight, to say the least, between the Nitros and Bulldogs, who entered the match tied for third and left each other no breathing room in a close match played out in a cramped pool under the watch of just one referee.
The determining factor was a prolonged scoring drought for the Nitros, who converted just one goal over the final 16 minutes and 50 seconds of the match, during which Pasadena was able to swing control into its favor and claim an 8-5 win.
"We were just really focusing on playing smart defense and knowing when to drop, when not to, when to switch," said Pasadena Coach Jennie Jacobsen-Huse, whose team is 4-2 in league and will open the league tournament as the No. 3 seed against second-seeded Burroughs on Tuesday at Burbank High. "The girls were just really trying to communicate with each other much better than we have in the past, so it worked out really well for us that way."
The Bulldogs, led by a match-high four goals from Emma Dodd, broke a 4-4 halftime tie with goals by Dodd and Lydia Kerns in the third quarter to enter the fourth up, 6-4. Kerns scored on a man advantage less than 1:30 into the third before Dodd lobbed a ball off a pass from Megan Ong perfectly over Glendale goalkeeper Marquita Lopez-Engelman (11 saves) at the 3:57 mark.
Glendale (11-8, 3-3 in league), meanwhile, was ineffective on seven third-quarter shot attempts, four of which were saved by Pasadena goalkeeper Alegra Hueso (13 saves). Even a man-advantage opportunity for the Nitros inside the final three minutes of the quarter resulted in a shot that missed the cage altogether.
"It came down to shooting. We're getting the same looks we were getting in the first and second quarter, but the shots just weren't going in," said Glendale Coach Forest Holbrook, whose team will match up with undefeated top-seed Crescenta Valley in the first round on Tuesday. "The opportunities were there. ...This is a tough pool to play in, Pasadena played really well, they've got a really good team. It was just a little bit of an off game for our girls."
Glendale started the fourth quarter with an aggressive move and score by Venus Payandeh on a man advantage with less than 30 seconds elapsed to pull within 6-5, but saw its next three shots on goal stopped by Hueso and never came close to making up the deficit that grew to 8-5 on goals by Madeline Pirrone (4:29) and Dodd, who deflected one in off Lopez-Engelman's hand at the 3:49 mark.
Glendale never trailed in the first half, taking a 2-0 lead in the first quarter off goals by Jacqueline Jones and Desiree Ivett Garcia-Solano, and saw its lead peak at 4-1 at the 2:50 mark of the second on back-to-back tallies by Biyouregh Boghozian.
But Pasadena battled back to even the score on a Dodd lob and a Kerns man-advantage goal assisted by Kati Works, followed by an Elma Memisevic floater from the corner.
"We just talked about playing the game that you know how to play," Jacobsen-Huse said. "Play the offense that you know how to play and they put it together then and it started going in. We talked about a lot of patience."