Crescenta Valley girls' water polo puts together another dominating win

RIVERSIDE — In its CIF Southern Section Division V opener, the Crescenta Valley High girls' water polo team proved it doesn't need a hot start or offense that's clicking to post a lopsided victory.

Still, those aspects are nice to have and the Falcons had both of them in hand in a 15-8 quarterfinal victory at Arlington High in Riverside Saturday.

Exactly 178 seconds into the game, CV held a 3-0 lead. Shannon Hovanesian had a huge part to play in that, as she had three steals, a goal and an assist by that point.

“A good lead is a great start to the game and every game we do push to take that lead,” said Hovanesian, who finished with two goals, six steals and four assists.

It was a stark contrast to the Falcons’ 11-2 victory over visiting Downey Wednesday. Top-seeded CV held just a 1-0 lead at the end of the first quarter and a 4-1 advantage at halftime.

“I think it did [play a part],” Crescenta Valley’s Elissa Arnold said of Saturday’s game. “We were all looking at that quarter going, ‘OK, we need to step it up, make our presence known early so then the other team doesn’t feel they can inch their way back up.’”

The win puts the Falcons in the semifinals for the third year in a row. CV hopes to avenge two years of frustration, a pair of losses to Temescal Canyon in the 2011 and 2012 semifinals and inch closer to its first-ever Division V title when it takes on the winner of Saturday’s Cerritos-Redlands East Valley game at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday at Whittier College.

“I think we’re all very in the mindset of getting to our goal now,” said Arnold, who finished tied with Katie Benson and Ashley Taylor for the team-high in goals with three.

Hovanesian also certainly feels her team is up to the task to advance to the finals this year.

“The past two years we’ve kind of been the same age, so every year we are the same age and growing together,” she said. “I think that because we are growing together we know each other, understand our way of playing and are able to play as a team.”

Crescenta Valley (31-2) took the lead on its second possession of the game, as Hovanesian assisted on a Taylor tally 1:13 into the game. Hovanesian grabbed a steal on Arlington’s next trip down the pool with the turnover leading to a five-meter goal from Benson 19 seconds after Taylor’s goal.

The Lions watched Hovanesian force another takeaway and lead a two-on-none breakaway before putting the ball in the cage herself for a 3-0 advantage with 5:02 to play in the first quarter.

“We talked about [the Downey game] in practice and just said, ‘We’ve got potentially a week left in the season. Why aren’t we just going out there and going all out?’” Crescenta Valley Coach Brent Danna said. “The girls came out and looked crisp — great passing, great shooting. I was really pleased with the starting group’s ability to go out there and just take care of business.”

The Lions (9-9) got on the board with 1:16 left in the first quarter, but experienced a scoring drought of eight minutes 31 seconds from there. While offense set the tone for Crescenta Valley, its defense was no less dominant, forcing 18 turnovers — many leading to counter-attack goals.

CV put together its finest eight-minute run in the second quarter, in which it shut out the Lions and put up six goals of its own to go into halftime with a 10-1 lead. Benson (two steals) scored all three of her goals in the first half, while a total of six Falcons had goals in the opening 14 minutes.

Falcons goalkeeper Gabriel Isacson had five saves in the first half, as Arlington was held to mostly outside shots, before being pulled for backup Maggie Connell in the third quarter.

With four CV starters on the bench to open the third, the Lions managed to score three straight goals and pull within six, 10-4, with 4:17 left in the frame.

Danna promptly subbed in three of his starters and watched his team put the game away with a 4-0 run to close the quarter with Arnold (two assists, two steals) scoring two of her three goals in that span.

Arlington managed to outscore the Falcons, 4-1, with CV’s starters on the bench in the final seven minutes.

While Danna would have liked to see his team tested a bit coming into the semifinals, there was no real room or reason to complain about Crescenta Valley’s dominance.

“I think it’s a double-edged sword,” Danna said of his team’s two lopsided victories in CIF. “It puts you between a rock and a hard place because you want to have those close games, but at the same time when you don’t it means that your players are prepared and executing properly, which makes things easier for us.”

While Hovanesian doesn’t mind the dominance, either, she hopes her team can show a flair for the dramatic with possibly two games left in its season.

“I think as a team we’re ready for competition,” she said. “I hope it is close and we end up on top.”

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