The La Cañada High girls' water polo team is hoping the tide will turn in its favor when Rio Hondo League play begins today.
The Spartans continued to struggle in the preseason on Tuesday against Cerritos. Cerritos cruised to a 15-3 win at La Cañada's pool, as most of the Dons' goals came off turnovers and on counterattacks.
The Dons (6-7) won the turnover battle and the match on the road. La Cañada (1-8) committed 21 turnovers, seven more than Cerritos. Turnovers often turned into points. Cerritos' goalie, Sharon Ku, threw plenty of outlet passes across the pool to various teammates streaking toward the Spartans goal.
"It's something we have to adjust to; we've got to figure when the ball is going to turn over," La Cañada Coach Josh Moser said. "It's not about speed, it's about reaction; and we're reacting really slow. The girl who throws a bad pass needs to be the first one back, and right now we don't have that and it's 'counter-attack city' until we stop that."
Jacqueline Jankaew got the scoring started early for the Dons, putting the ball in the net 37 seconds into the match. It was her first of a game-high seven goals.
Reona Akiyama answered back for the Spartans, scoring a goal to tie the score at 1.
La Cañada had difficulty finding an answer to the Dons' offense from then on, giving up 10 consecutive goals. La Cañada didn't score again until Rita Neat found the back of the net with 54 seconds remaining in the third quarter to bring the score to 11-2.
Offense remains La Cañada's big question mark. The team always seems to be one pass away from scoring, though it was two to three passes away a few weeks back, Moser said.
"It's tough for the girls, because we aren't scoring a whole lot more, but we are getting a lot better opportunities," Moser said. "When we get better opportunities, even if we don't score, we can get back on defense."
Katherine Gabayeron scored her third goal of the game with 1:26 left in the fourth quarter to extend Cerritos' lead and end the scoring at 15-3.
Stephanie Whitham scored the Spartans' third and final goal and finished the game with three steals.
"When our defense is clicking and everyone is working hard together, we're really hard to score on," said Moser, pointing to the third quarter, when La Cañada only gave up just two goals. "When we start getting back on the counter-attack, we're going to be really good. The thing is, is that going to happen [today], or next year? I don't know. Hopefully by [today]."
As Rio Hondo League play begins for La Cañada, the team heads to Temple City. A lot will be riding on the contest against the Rams, as the Spartans will be looking for their second win of the season and will be trying to end a three-game losing streak.