Crescenta Valley High water polo enjoys senior moment

LA CRESCENTA — A picturesque afternoon gave way to photos, smiles and hugs shortly after what was the final regular season home match for the Crescenta Valley High boys’ water polo team.

On Wednesday afternoon, the Falcons honored nine seniors by playing each one in an 18-6 route of visiting Arcadia High.

“Our emphasis today was like every other game, which is to prepare for all opponents the same way, regardless of record,” Falcons Coach Jan Sakonju said. “I know that Arcadia is struggling, so we wanted to make sure we secured the win and then we’d worry about getting all the seniors involved.”

It’s didn’t take long for the CIF Southern Section Division V third-ranked Falcons (14-8, 5-1 in league) to ice the contest.

Crescenta Valley converted seven of 10 shots in the first quarter and led, 7-0. Eventually the Falcons ran their streak to 11 straight goals when a steal from senior goalie George Vine IV (three steals) led to a counter-attack goal from senior Krassimir Djonev off an assist from Andrew Masters with 3:16 remaining in the second quarter.

While the Falcons’ offense was efficient, the defense was even more dominant, holding the Apaches (8-11, 0-6) scoreless through their first 12 shots, due in part to seven of Vine IV’s nine total saves.

“I can’t take all the credit. The defense was amazing. They were coming up with steals and pressuring Arcadia into tough shots,” Vine IV said. “That was one of our best efforts.”

Arcadia did break through on a goal from Kevin Fry (match-high five goals) off an assist from Thomas Eao with 2:57 remaining in the first half.

Unfortunately for Arcadia, nearly another quarter passed before the Apaches’ next goal, while Crescenta Valley closed out the first half with a score from Masters off an assist from senior Nate Fernandez (team-high three goal) with 2:37 left that put the Falcons ahead, 12-1.

With Crescenta Valley comfortably up, 13-1, at the four-minute mark, Sakonju felt comfortable enough fielding an all-senior squad of Daniel Park, Darius Bhadha, John Daniel Hales, Alex Leif, Fernandez, Djonev and Vine VI, who were all members of the same junior varsity squad.

“We were all freshmen who came up together and it was great to be out there one last time on our home pool,” said Bhadha, who tallied a goal. “We started together and we finished together.”

Crescenta Valley led, 15-2, after three quarters and allowed four scores in the fourth after Vine VI had been substituted out.

Perhaps the most impressive part of the Falcons’ defense was its penalty killing as Arcadia finished one of eight combined on six-on-five chances and five-meter penalty shots.

Not lost in a balanced Falcons attack was a well-rounded effort from Brandon Fernandez, who finished with two goals, four assists and two steals.

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