LA CAÑADA — Whether or not Tuesday afternoon’s Prep League boys’ water polo contest marked the final home match this year for Flintridge Prep remains to be seen.
What the CIF Southern Section Division V ninth-ranked Rebels did ensure, however, is that they treated the match as such, playing stout defense en route to an impressive 19-11 victory over seventh-ranked Webb in the regular-season home finale.
“Regardless of where we go in CIF, this was our last home game before playoffs,” Rebels Coach Dan Hare said. “I’ve got 10 seniors and I know they weren’t going to limit their effort by any means. We had a little extra emotional intensity tonight.”
With the victory, Flintridge Prep (13-11, 7-2) moved into second place over Webb (15-11, 7-3), while avenging the team’s previous meeting, a 15-14 overtime thriller that went the Gauls’ way on Oct. 19.
Flintridge Prep also kept its slim league title chances alive and has to hope for a herculean upset from last-place La Salle (3-20, 0-8) of league-leading Pasadena Poly (18-5, 8-0) on Wednesday for Friday’s matchup between the Rebels and Panthers to have league title implications.
The Rebels put themselves in a position to entertain several playoff scenarios behind a defense that held the Gauls to four of 10 in six-on-five opportunities. That was in comparison to a seven-for-10 effort by Webb in the team’s first meeting.
“We worked on our six-on-five defense and broke down film to see what they did last time,” said Rebels senior Ethan Vandeventer, who contributed four goals, six assists and three steals. “Five-on-six is huge for us. It’s good to hear they only scored four, but we’d like that number to be zero next time.”
Flintridge Prep’s defense may have been strongest in the second quarter, which opened with a 3-3 tie.
The Rebels quickly broke through the stalemate, scoring on their first three possessions and four of five thanks in part to two goals and an assist from Vandeventer and a goal and assist from Diego Delgado (three steals and three assists).
Vandeventer then netted the Rebels’ final score of the quarter off an assist from Delgado with 3:54 remaining to give Flintridge Prep an 8-3 advantage.
While the Rebels created five turnovers in the second quarter, including two steals from Vandeventer, their short-handed defense was superb, as Flintridge Prep held Webb 0 for four with only two shot attempts and one save needed from goalie Alejandro Hirsch Marin (four saves and two steals).
Even though Webb’s defense forced seven Rebels turnovers in the quarter, with two steals apiece from David Albers and Mitchel Fargo, the Gauls only netted one score in the quarter on a three-meter goal from Ray Dahlstrom with 59 seconds remaining in the first half to trail, 8-4, at the break.
“We didn’t play our best against Webb the first time and we wanted to change that,” said Rebels senior John Treinen, who led his team with five goals and three steals.
Treinen scored three of his goals in the third quarter, including off an assist from Sean King (three assists) with 2:14 left in the third on a man-advantage opportunity that gave Flintridge Prep its biggest lead to that point, 13-6.
The Rebels’ advantage fluctuated between six and seven goals from that point until less than two minutes remained in the fourth quarter.
Other than six-on-fives, maybe the biggest difference between meetings was the impact of Gauls driver Spencer Hosch, who was a menace the first time the teams played.
On Tuesday, Hosch picked up two ejections within the first six minutes of the game and was limited to one assist before being expelled with 2:31 left in the third after his third kick-out.
“I think we’re a different team from the first time we met and I even think we’re a better team from the last time we played Poly,” Vandeventer said in reference to the Rebels’ 9-8 loss to the Panthers on Oct. 30. “I don’t know if Friday’s game will be for a league title, but it will be big for us. We haven’t beat Poly in like nine years, so that’s a pretty big goal for us.”