Two of the city of La Cañada’s three high school girls’ water polo programs earned advancement to the CIF Southern Section playoffs and know when and where they start due to Saturday’s playoff pairings release.
Rio Hondo League champion La Cañada High and Prep League third-place finisher Flintridge Prep are competing in different divisions, own contrasting playoff pedigrees and face distinct challenges.
One more difference between the programs is that the Spartans will be on the road to open the postseason, while the Rebels will host.
Despite capturing a third straight league crown, the Spartans (17-9) will be traveling to Marmonte League champion Agoura (17-12) in Thursday’s first round at 5 p.m. of the Division II playoffs.
“By the way our season has gone, I just kind of expected to be on the road,” said La Cañada coach Ian Davidson, whose Spartans just lost to Agoura, 6-4, on Feb. 1 in tournament play. “We’ve gone on the road and played some of the toughest competition with a schedule that is one of the most aggressive that La Cañada has ever had.”
Should the Spartans win Thursday, they would advance to Saturday’s quarterfinals against top-seeded San Clemente (19-8), the South Coast League champion, or Bay League second-place squad Redondo Union (22-6) at a location and time to be determined.
The Spartans have advanced to the postseason for four straight seasons and have reached the quarterfinal round in back-to-back campaigns.
Last season, La Cañada defeated Dana Hills, 8-7, in the first round before losing to eventual Division II champion Montebello Schurr, 12-10, in the quarterfinals. That marked the second consecutive season the Spartans were topped by the CIF champion.
On the flip side, Flintridge Prep finished 9-10 this season and clinched the program’s first postseason berth since 2003 under coach Andrew Phillips after taking third place in the Prep League.
“It’s a dream come true for the girls,” Phillips said. “It’s the first time in 15 years, so it’s big for the team.”
The Rebels kick off the postseason Wednesday in the Division VII wild-card round.
Flintridge Prep will host freelance squad La Mirada (19-9) at 5 p.m. at Burbank High or Pasadena Poly, according to Phillips. A locale is expected to be secured on Monday.
Though the Rebels haven’t faced the Matadores this season, that won’t change the focus for Phillips.
“We’ll keep the same philosophy that we’ve kept all season, which is to play good water polo fundamentals,” Phillips said. “We’re prepared for most situations. We’ve seen high-quality offenses in Poly and Mayfield. Even though we can’t prepare for a team we don’t know, we can work on what we do.”
A victory would require a quick turnaround for Flintridge Prep, which would travel to Ojai Villanova Prep (13-11), the Frontier League champion, in Thursday’s first round at 5 p.m.
Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy, which finished sixth in the Mission League with a 3-13 record, did not qualify to the postseason.