It was clear the tides had turned when the La Cañada High girls' water polo team traveled to South Pasadena last Thursday.
Both teams have been fierce Rio Hondo League rivals for years, taking turns dominating the league. The Tigers showed they're currently the ones to beat in league, defeating the Spartans handily for the second time in a row this season, 24-2.
The rivalry is viewed differently this year, depending upon whom you ask.
"I think the rivalry does make us play harder," South Pasadena Coach Robert Echeverria said. "It's still a big rivalry; we always want to beat them."
First-year La Cañada Coach Josh Moser said the rivalry is dormant right now because both teams are at different levels.
"South Pasadena is just so far ahead of everyone else right now that I don't think about this as a rivalry at this point," Moser said. "Reality is, it's not a rivalry right now and it pains me to say that. We just don't have the experience that past La Cañada teams have had."
The Tigers (21-2, 6-0 in league) entered the season with a roster stacked with experience — most of their team members play water polo year-round. The Spartans (8-18, 3-4) have a squad comprised of four seniors.
By the end of the first quarter, that experience paid dividends, as South Pasadena had built a 9-1 lead.
"There is nothing we could have done at this point — they are bigger, stronger, better and faster than us in every facet of the game," Moser said.
Reona Akiyama scored La Cañada's first goal with 40 seconds left in the first. Rita Neat scored the Spartan's second, and final, goal with 5:25 left in the third quarter, trimming the deficit to 16-2.
Tyler Brown and Anna-Lena Hathaway, the Tigers' co-captains, led the charge. Brown had a game-high eight goals and Hathaway had six goals and five steals.
Turnovers cost La Cañada, as they have all year. The Tigers forced 18 turnovers and turned 10 of them into points, as the Spartans had difficulty getting back on transition.
"I told [my team] to think about why they're better than us — think about how much this sucks — how bad this feels and don't let it happen next year," Moser said.
Echeverria said he doesn't know what next year will look like in terms of the rivalry. The tides are always changing in high-school sports, he said.
"[La Cañada] is a new team with new coaching, so it's all fairly new to them. But I'm sure in the next couple of years they're going to be back," Echeverria said. "We're just lucky to be on top right now."