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Strong start propels La Cañada girls’ water polo past Monrovia in league win

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La Cañada High’s Meadow Solares rises over Monrovia’s Lilan Caputi fduring Thursday’s Rio Hondo League match at La Cañada .
(Tim Berger/La Cañada Valley Sun)

LA CAÑADA — Once the La Cañada High girls’ water polo team got into a rhythm in a Rio Hondo League contest against Monrovia, the Spartans did not hold back.

The Spartans fell behind early at home, but responded with seven unanswered goals in the first half on their way to a big lead at halftime.

Though Monrovia chipped away at the host’s advantage in the third quarter, La Cañada held on for a 15-8, victory Thursday.

The Spartans were hungry to bounce back from a one-goal loss to league-leader Temple City, as the Rams came away with an 8-7 victory on the road Tuesday.

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The Spartans shook off that loss, scoring 10 goals in the first half against Monrovia en route to their fourth league victory.

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La Canada’s Shelby Hovanesian takes an open shot in front of the Monrovia goal in a Rio Condo League girls’ water polo game at La Canada High School on Thursday, January 23, 2020.
(Tim Berger/La Cañada Valley Sun)

“We wanted to bounce back and make a statement that, from this point on, we’ll be ready to go every game,” La Cañada coach Robert Echeverria said. “We’re a tough team when we’re prepared and ready, and I thought we had a great practice the day before the game. It showed.

“We pushed the tempo in the game, and I think when we do that, we’re dangerous. I was excited to see our girls really swim down the pool especially, after a tough practice yesterday. They were in attack mode, and that was the difference.”

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An early offensive facilitator for the Spartans (10-7, 4-1 in league) was junior Shelby Hovanesian, who scored the first two goals for La Cañada and contributed four assists in the first half.

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La Canada’s Beatriz Untalan takes a shot and scores after finding herself open on a fast break against Monrovia in a Rio Condo League girls’ water polo game at La Canada High School on Thursday, January 23, 2020.
(Tim Berger/La Cañada Valley Sun)

“We came in with a focused mind,” said Hovanesian, who finished the contest with two goals and five assists. “Last night, we had a good practice and got it back together for this game.”

La Cañada senior Tess Fundter led the hosts with four goals, senior Beatriz Untalan added three goals and junior Meadow Solares, senior Brianna Akopian and freshman Shareen Emadi each scored two goals.

Monrovia junior Kelly Kringen led the Wildcats (9-4, 2-3) with five goals and scored twice in the Wildcats’ third-quarter rally.

The Spartans fell behind, 1-0, to start the game following a goal from Kringen. But Hovanesian tied the score 1 at 4:21 in the first quarter to get the Spartans rolling.

Hovanesian scored again with 3:11 left in the opening quarter to give La Cañada a 2-1 lead, before goals from Fundter and Akopian gave the Spartans a three-goal cushion.

“It was a tough loss for us,” Fundter said of the setback to Temple City. “We wanted to get back and really get it started in the first quarter so that we could be ahead and get the freshmen some playing experience in league games like these where it’s important near the end.”

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The Spartans’ run continued in the second quarter, as Hovanesian assisted on goals to Emadi and Untalan to put La Cañada ahead, 7-1, at 5:35 in the quarter.

A goal from Kringen pulled one back for the Wildcats a minute later, but the Spartans finished off the quarter with three unanswered goals for a 10-2 halftime lead. Hovanesian assisted two of the three La Cañada goals to close the half.

Goals from Untalan and Fundter opened up the second half and gave the La Cañada its largest lead, 12-2, at 5:03 in the third.

A Monrovia rally followed with a pair of goals from senior Charlotte Gray and junior Gabby Nguyen to cut the Spartans lead to 12-4 with 3:10 left in the third.

Fundter added a goal for the Spartans with 1:20 remaining, but after a score from Gray, Kringen contributed two goals at the waning moments of the quarter to make it a 13-7 score at the end of the period.

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La Canada’s goalie Jessica Chilton makes a stop on a Monrovia shot in a Rio Condo League girls’ water polo game at La Canada High School on Thursday, January 23, 2020.
(Tim Berger/La Cañada Valley Sun)

The Wildcats outscored the Spartans, 5-1, in the final four minutes of the frame.

A pair of goals from Akopian and Emadi lifted La Cañada to a 15-7 advantage, before Kringen scored her fifth goal to cap the scoring with 15 seconds left.

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“After the Temple City loss, we had a wake-up call,” Echeverria said. “We weren’t ready to play in that game and sometimes you need that.

“Our team is very different with a mix of young players and veterans, so I think they just assumed we could turn on the switch whenever we wanted to, but I think it was a good learning experience for us and myself. A lot of credit goes to Temple City. They kind of lit a fire in us and I think that was the difference today.”

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La Canada’s Shelby Hovanesian shoots with Monrovia’s Charlotte Gray approaching in a Rio Condo League girls’ water polo game at La Canada High School on Thursday, January 23, 2020.
(Tim Berger/La Cañada Valley Sun)

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