LA CAÑADA — Defense has been the strength of the La Cañada High boys' water polo team for the past few years, but the Spartans' offense took center stage in its Rio Hondo League opener against Temple City Tuesday.
La Cañada came out firing in its first home game of the year and jumped on the Rams early, rolling to a double-digit victory, 20-10.
"It was our first home game and emotions were high," Spartans Coach Steven Neville said. "We had been waiting for this game for a while so they were ready to come out and score."
Neville was pleased with the result, but wants to see improvement moving forward, particularly on defense.
"I actually thought our defense kind of lacked today, individually and as a team," Neville said. "That's been our backbone all season and I felt we let down a little today with our opponent, but we pulled it out at the end and that's all that matters."
Symeon Stefan led the charge for La Cañada's offense, scoring a game-high seven goals. Chase Borisoff was right behind him with five goals. Trevor Roszkos and Bryce Hopkins both scored twice for the Spartans.
"He is one of our biggest threats on offense and we need him to play well at all times," Neville said of Stefan, who also had two steals in the contest. "I thought today was one of those days he played really well and was clicking on all cylinders. His shot was there and his defense was good."
The Spartans (8-4, 1-0 in league) started the game out on a 4-0 run. The Rams (7-4, 0-1) got on the board with 10 seconds left in the opening quarter when Derek Wan scored on a five-meter shot and cut the lead to 4-1 heading into the second quarter. Wan had a team-high four goals for Temple City.
Stefan had four goals in the first half, two coming within the last 1:30 of the second quarter, to lead La Cañada to a commanding 11-3 advantage at the half.
"I think we performed really well," Stefan said. "This was a good effort by everybody. We had a few mistakes on defense, but I think we made up for those on the other side of the pool."
Borisoff scored two of La Cañada's six goals in the third quarter to give La Cañada a 17-5 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
Temple City scored most of its goals on five-meter opportunities, earning six in the game — a sign of La Cañada's shaky defense, Neville said.
"We lost some individual battles on defense," said La Cañada goalie Wolfie Paulson, who had nine saves in the game. "Some guys got turned and that led to a lot of five meters."
Two of the Rams' five-meter shots were saved by Paulson, who had missed a large part of the year with a wrist injury.
"That's impressive for any goalie, against any team," Neville said. "It's nice to have him back. He's a big presence in the goal, passes really well and is the backbone of our defense."
Everyone on the Spartans' roster got into the action Tuesday, as Neville cleared his bench in the fourth quarter. Temple City took advantage, scoring five goals in the final quarter to cut La Cañada's lead down and finish the scoring at 20-10.