Crescenta Valley girls' water polo relies on defense in win

PASADENA — Through two quarters of play, the Crescenta Valley High girls' water polo team mustered only four goals, a feat it's at times accomplished in two minutes, in Wednesday afternoon's opening round of the CIF Southern Section Division V playoffs at Pasadena City College.

Yet, there was no hint of panic or need for a fiery halftime sermon from Falcons Coach Brent Danna.

Perhaps Danna was certain in the fact that while Crescenta Valley’s offense had some issues, its defense was stellar in an 11-2 victory over visiting Downey.

“There are going to be days where you’re off offensively, but there’s really no excuse to be off on defense,” Danna said. “I’m confident with how hard we’ve worked this season that we’ll eventually get through whatever struggles because of our defense.”

With the victory, the top-seeded Falcons (30-2) earned a date in the Inland Empire as they’ll travel to Inland Valley League second-seeded Riverside Arlington (9-8) on Saturday for the quarterfinals. Arlington punched its ticket to the second round via a 12-5 victory over Santa Ynez on Wednesday.

Statistically speaking, the Falcons appeared vulnerable, leading, 4-1, at halftime, while converting only four of 15 shots and scoring on one of three six-on-five tries.

Yet, on the flip side, the Falcons forced 10 turnovers versus allowing one goal on nine shots against Downey.

The Falcons’ stout defense then turned proactive in the second half as a steal from Ashley Taylor led to a goal from Elissa Arnold (tied for team-high three goals and two steals) with 6:28 remaining that gave Crescenta Valley a 5-1 advantage.

Taylor’s takeaway was followed by steals from Crescenta Valley’s Katie Benson and Arnold that led to goals from Shannon Hovanesian (two goals and two steals) and Taylor (three goals and two steals), both of whom were assisted by Breana Lawton, as the Falcons increased their advantage to 7-1 with 4:43 remaining in the third.

Crescenta Valley’s final goal of the quarter was delivered by Caitlin Connell off an assist from Taylor with 3:01 remaining as the Falcons closed the third up, 8-1.

The game was all but over when Taylor scored her final goal off an assist from Arnold with 4:24 left in the fourth as the Falcons led, 9-1, and Danna made wholesale substitutions.

“I just wanted to make sure the starters got in the flow of things and were moving the ball around,” Danna said. “Once it got to 9-1, I thought it was time for the subs.”

One such reserve, Eliza Arslanyan, took advantage of her time by scoring two goals in cementing the 11-2 win for the Falcons

“We’ve always been focused on defense and our offense wasn’t really falling into place in the first two quarters,” said Benson, who finished with six steals. “We brought it back around in the third quarter, but our defense really saved us.”

Crescenta Valley only led, 1-0, after one quarter with a goal from Arnold off an assist from Taylor serving as the icebreaker at 1:14 in the quarter.

The Falcons added three scores in the second from Hovanesian, Arnold and Taylor as marksmanship seemed an issue with Crescenta Valley hitting either the post or cross on six shots.

Falcons goalie Gabriel Isacson finished with five saves.

Copyright © 2019, Glendale News-Press
EDITION: California | U.S. & World