In its quest to claim the program’s first-ever CIF Southern Section championship, the Glendale High boys’ water polo team finds itself in the familiar, and predicted, position of entering the Division V playoffs as the No. 1 seed.
Crescenta Valley, the Pacific League runner-up to Glendale, also received a lofty seed, taking the No. 3 spot, while Flintridge Prep will travel to face Riverside Poly in a playoff rematch of last season, as playoff pairings were released on Sunday morning.
For the second season in a row, the Nitros enter the playoffs as the No. 1 seed. A year ago, Glendale fell in its first-ever championship appearance against Pasadena Poly. Now, the Nitros (18-6) begin their path in the hopes of winning a CIF championship with a home match at 3:15 p.m. Wednesday against California, an at-large entrant from the Del Rio League, at Burbank High. California boasts a 15-5 record, but went just 1-4 in its league.
The Nitros are coming off a third straight undefeated run through the Pacific League. Should they advance, they would face either the Prep League’s Webb (14-11) or the Inland Valley League’s Citrus Valley (12-12) on Saturday.
Glendale Coach Forest Holbrook said the Nitros will look to draw on last season’s playoff experience to help them in this time around.
“Every single guy back was on the team last year,” Holbrook said. “We now have that extra year of maturity, and it’s done wonders in terms of leadership and staying focused.
“Being No. 1, you still have to be prepared because there are a lot of good teams in the division. We will take our opponents very seriously.”
On the other side of the bracket, Crescenta Valley (15-9), after a second place finish in the Pacific, earned the No. 3 seed and will open up against El Rancho (15-11), the second-place team out of the Del Rio League. The match will begin at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday at Pasadena City College.
“I don’t think we’re overconfident with anybody,” said Falcons Coach Jan Sakonju of his players’ mindset going in as the No. 3 seed. “We’re looking at one step at a time.
“El Rancho’s a scrappy team. They’ll run a lot of picks and a lot of drives. We just have to be patient with that on defense.”
If the Falcons prevail, they’ll move on to Saturday’s quarterfinal round, where they would face Rowland (15-12), the Hacienda League’s No. 3 team, or Poly (20-5), which won the Prep League. Crescenta Valley lost to Poly in the teams’ annual nonleague matchup, but avenged that defeat with a resounding 9-1 win at the Oxnard Tournament. Sakonju said Poly was not at full strength, however.
Flintridge Prep will be on the Falcons’ side of the bracket.
Prep (13-11), having tied for second in the Prep League, faces a Riverside Poly squad that won the Inland Valley League and owns a 17-11 record. The match will begin at 5 p.m. Wednesday at Riverside Poly.
Flintridge Prep lost to Riverside Poly in the Division V quarterfinals last season. If the Rebels notch a win Wednesday, they’ll return to the quarterfinals to face off with second-seeded Los Altos or a wild card entrant.
“Obviously, it gives us a chance to avenge a pretty big loss from last year,” Flintridge Prep Coach Dan Hare said. “So, we’re ready.”
Hare is confident that after last season’s success and a strenuous nonleague schedule, the Rebels are ready to make some playoff noise.
“This is when that senior leadership is gonna come into play. I don’t have to remind them that every game could be the last game that they play together,” Hare said. “I would also say that this is when we’re helped by the depth of the Prep League and also the strength of our out-of-league schedule. … Our body of work much of the rest of the season I think bodes well for us.”
A win would put the Rebels into the quarterfinals for a second consecutive year, where they would face either second-seeded Los Altos (18-10) or a wild card entrant.