Crescenta Valley girls' water polo takes down Los Altos

HACIENDA HEIGHTS — It could be argued that the Crescenta Valley High girls' water polo team was in need of a challenge before the start of the CIF Southern Section Division V playoffs after the Falcons already outscored two Pacific League tournament foes by nearly 30 goals en route to capturing a league championship.

For a while, it seemed like Division IV third-ranked Los Altos was that test.

Yet, visiting Division V top-ranked Crescenta Valley responded to an early three-goal deficit by scoring 17 of the game’s final 23 goals versus the Conquerors in an 18-10 victory Friday afternoon.

“We didn’t play that well in the first half. It was just a lack of defensive intensity,” Falcons Coach Brent Danna said. “It took us a while to get going, but we finally did.”

The Falcons (28-2) led the contest, 8-6, at the break and took control in winning the third quarter, 5-1.

Crescenta Valley came out with a flurry, scoring goals on its first two possessions of the second half on shots from Shannon Hovanesian (assist from Ashley Taylor) and from Taylor, who was aided by Breana Lawton, as the Falcons led, 10-6, with 5:53 remaining in the third.

After another offensive miss from the Conquerors (20-9) on their next possession, the Falcons again scored, this time when Audrey Taylor (two goals, two assists and three steals) found the back of the net at the 4:55 mark to put the visitors up, 11-6.

While the Falcons’ offense started to find its groove, the defense was stellar, highlighted by the marquee matchup of Los Altos senior Stephanie Contreras versus Hovanesian.

Contreras entered the contest as the CIF Southern Section single-season scoring leader, having tallied 188 goals in 2010, and just broke the all-time scoring mark, formerly held by La Salle’s Kara-Leigh Huse of 620 goals, with 626 scores entering Friday’s affair.

Yet, Contreras didn’t add much to her record-setting mark as she was harassed by Hovanesian, who in turn received help on defense at times from Audrey Taylor and Lawton (two goals, two assists and three steals).

In the third quarter, Contreras was 0 for three on shot attempts and finished with two goals overall in nine attempts.

“It’s a real honor to defend her. I respect all the players on any team that we play,” said Hovanesian, who finished with four goals, two assists and two steals. “I think that the opportunity to play against her and learn from her is awesome. I’ve been playing against her for three years, so I kind of know who she is.”

The Falcons added goals from Ashley Taylor (game-high five goals) and Hovanesian in the quarter, while the Conquerors’ lone response was a goal from senior Erica Venegas as Los Altos trailed, 13-7, after three quarters.

While Venegas scored with 6:12 remaining in the fourth to bring Los Altos within 13-8, the Falcons’ Katie Benson, Ashley Taylor, Elissa Arnold (three goals) and Hovanesian all scored in succession as Crescenta Valley iced the game in going up, 17-8, with 2:29 remaining.

The Falcons could very well have put the game away earlier had they been more efficient in advantage situations, as they were 0 for four on five-meter penalty shots and two for four on six-on-five chances.

Crescenta Valley did receive a scare early as the Conquerors opened with three straight goals and eventually led, 4-1, with 2:55 remaining in the first.

From that deficit, Crescenta Valley answered back with a 7-0 run behind two goals apiece from Arnold and Lawton.

Falcons goalie Gabriel Isacson finished with seven saves, while Maggie Connell came in to make one save in the fourth.

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