Spartans keep focus in blowout

LA CAÑADA — It can be difficult for a team to keep its focus when it's clearly a level above its competition.

La Cañada High water polo Coach Steve Neville was happy to see his team never lose focus when it hosted Monrovia in a Rio Hondo League match Tuesday, even though the game was decided minutes into the match.

The Spartans absolutely rolled through the Wildcats, picking up a shutout, 27-0 victory. It was a balanced effort, as every player on La Cañada's bench played and 13 Spartans notched a goal.

"I thought they did perfect," Neville said. "They came in and took care of business right away, which allowed me to play the kids who don't get to play as much even more. They did a great job and I really like where our team is right now."

The win keeps La Cañada, ranked fourth in the CIF Southern Section Division III polls, on the right track to win Rio Hondo League for the second year in a row. La Cañada (17-5, 6-0 in league) travels to South Pasadena (5-1 in league) Tuesday. If La Cañada wins, it claims the title outright.

The Tigers have a chance at sharing the league championship if they beat Monrovia today and La Cañada Tuesday, and the Spartans fall to San Marino in their final league game of the season on Nov. 3.

La Cañada forced 28 turnovers Tuesday, scoring 17 of those on Monrovia miscues. It got ugly early, as the Spartans scored twice in the opening two minutes and built an 8-0 lead less than five minutes into the game, behind three goals from Trevor Roszkos, two goals from Chase Borisoff and Alden Geller and a goal from Symeon Stefan.

By the end of the first quarter, La Cañada had already pulled all its starters and built a 13-0 lead. By halftime, the Spartans were up 18-0, behind two goals from Ryan Gokey and Johnny Louk in the second quarter.

"Generally, we tend to lose focus toward the end of the game, but today we kept it together — kept up our 'D' and our offense and played smart," said Gokey, who finished with two goals.

Stefan led the way in the third quarter, scoring two goals, with five other players chipping in goals, as the lead swelled to 25-0.

James Toomarian was one of several substitute players for La Cañada that spent most of Tuesday's game in the pool. He knows the experience will be valuable, if he's called on in the playoffs.

"It was good to prepare with [some of the starters] today, in case they need me to come in during the playoffs," Toomarian said.

The only Spartan to score in the fourth quarter was Wolfie Paulson, the team's goalie, who chipped in two goals to cap the scoring at 27-0. Neville subbed Paulson in on offense, after he played the first three quarters with six saves and six steals.

"[Paulson] always wants to [go score] in games like this, so I figured I would let him play a quarter in the field," Neville said.

Roszkos finished with a game-high four goals (all in the first quarter). Geller and Stefan scored three times for the Spartans.

The Spartans have also been competing in tournaments and taking on a number of top teams from Orange County, including Laguna Beach, Servite and Mira Costa, this season to face steeper competition and prepare for the Division III playoffs.

La Cañada kicked off the Hank Vellecamp tournament Monday with two more impressive performances, defeating Valencia Valencia, 13-7, and Ayala, 20-7.

"We got to keep winning if we are going to make it to CIF like we all want to," Gokey said.

Copyright © 2019, La Cañada Valley Sun
EDITION: California | U.S. & World