PASADENA – This time around, history was not on the side of the Flintridge Prep girls’ water polo team.
The Rebels made their first postseason trip since 2003 in Wednesday afternoon’s wild-card round of the CIF Southern Section Division VII playoffs at Pasadena Poly.
Unfortunately for Flintridge Prep, visiting La Mirada added an inaugural chapter to its playoff chronicle with an 11-4 victory that marked the first postseason triumph in the six-year history of the Matadores’ program.
With the defeat, Flintridge Prep finished its best season in a generation with a 9-11 record, a third-place finish in the Prep League and maybe a turning point for the program.
“This is a stepping stone for us,” Flintridge Prep coach Andrew Phillips said. “Hopefully next year we’ll make it back to CIF and win one. We have a young team with three seniors who set the culture for everyone else to build off of. I like the freshmen we have and it’s exciting to look at what this program can do.”
One of those freshmen, Natalie Kaplanyan, scored all four goals for the Rebels, while Maxine Mangubat, Lara Friedman and Emeline Tolleson added assists.
Junior Michelle Klansek led all scorers with four goals for La Mirada, while teammates Julia Bridges and Emily Mancheno added three goals each.
“We run a huge counter-attack and we’ve worked on counter-attacking for the last two weeks,” La Mirada coach Josh Grossman said. “We’re a freelance team and didn’t have a game for two weeks, so we had a lot of time to get ready.”
While the Rebels played the Matadores (21-9) nearly even in the first and fourth quarters, the middle periods proved to be their undoing.
La Mirada outscored Flintridge Prep, 5-2, in the second frame and, 3-0, in the third period, while holding the Rebels without a goal from the two-minute mark in the second quarter until the two-minute mark in the fourth quarter.
“This game was tough because it was our first CIF game and it was something we never thought possible until a couple of weeks ago,” Mangubat said. “For us, it was definitely very intimidating and there was a lot of uncertainty going in because we had never been in a game like this.”
The Rebels trailed, 1-0, after one quarter and surrendered goals on three of the four shots of the second quarter to go down, 4-1, after a goal from La Mirada’s Kali Waters with 4:14 left.
Flintridge Prep’s lone score during the sequence came from Kaplanyan off an assist from Mangubat on the Rebels’ eighth shot of the game at 5:19 in the second quarter.
The goal was the only natural score for the Rebels, who picked up another Kaplanyan goal on a six-on-five opportunity with 2:39 left in the second.
Flintridge Prep fell behind, 6-2, at halftime and, 9-2, after three quarters.
Flintridge Prep’s two other scores came on a five-meter penalty shot and another man-advantage goal.
“It’s incredible to be a part of this program and I really expect good things from these girls,” Rebels senior Sophia Pawlek said. “I can’t wait to see what this program looks like three, four years from now.”