LA CANADA — The La Cañada High and Burbank girls' water polo teams both had matches canceled last week as a result of the wild windstorms that hit Southern California.
With a Spartans squad that is short on experience and had just one contest under its belt, and a Bulldogs group that is still trying to find its identity, missing out on a chance to play was a setback for the teams.
Despite some wayward tree branches still remaining at the bottom of the La Cañada pool, the teams got the opportunity to jump back into action Tuesday when they met for a nonleague game.
It was apparent from the opening moments that Burbank possessed the more talented squad, as the Spartans were never in the match and the Bulldogs were able to roll to an 18-1 victory.
Burbank (4-2), which lost All-CIF Southern Section standout Jordan Card to graduation last season, is still trying to establish its offensive presence.
"They were so used to just throwing the ball into Jordan last year and letting her do the scoring," said Bulldogs Coach Evelin Setaghian, a former All-Area Player of the Year who is in her first season after serving as a varsity assistant. "I have to tell them to shoot the ball and not just hold on to it. But things are getting better, and they're learning."
That offense Tuesday was led by Natalie Pentkowski, who tallied a match-high six goals.
Pentkowski said there is a much different makeup with the Bulldogs this season.
"Compared to last year, we are really working as a whole, as a team this year," she said. "This year there's really no one key player and we're just all trying to step up so the team can be successful. We can see that we're improving."
Burbank also received four goals from Janna Ayvazyan and two each from Abigail Glaessner, Gabby Rodriguez and Evet Azarian.
Offense wasn't easy to come by for the Spartans (0-2). The team's lone score came with 3:49 left in the second quarter, and the goal came off a Burbank player. La Cañada's Rebecca Burten fired a shot that went off the hand of the Bulldogs' Rodriguez, sailing misdirected into the cage.
With just five players who have any extended water polo experience, Spartans first-year Coach Kristen Dronberger said her squad will definitely experience some growing pains this season.
"I think any team wants instant gratification and they want to be good right away," she said. "But we know that we just don't have the experience and that success is going to come slowly for us. But the girls are really working hard and we are making progress."
As well as Burbank was clicking on offense, it was its defense that set the tone against the Spartans. The Bulldogs hounded the La Cañada ball-handlers and notched 25 steals in the contest. Azarian led the way with eight steals.
Azarian tallied four steals in the first quarter to help pave the way to a 7-0 Burbank lead. The Bulldogs converted seven of their 10 shot attempts in the opening frame. In contrast, the Spartans could manage just two shots in the first.
The Spartans settled down a bit in the second quarter, but were still outscored, 4-1, as Burbank enjoyed an 11-1 cushion after the first half after hitting on four of its first five shot attempts.
"We are pressing to go and we are looking for the steals every time on defense," Setaghian said. "That is what we work on every day in practice and that is our entire defense. We don't want to let teams set up for shots."
La Cañada was awarded a five-meter penalty shot with 33 seconds left in the second quarter, but the Spartans were called for a violation on the attempt.
Burbank increased its lead to 16-1 after three quarters.
The Bulldogs — who were missing one of their key offensive players, Nicole Valencia, who was taking an exam — received six saves from goalkeeper Jasmine Ellman. Ellman has been playing the position for just two weeks after the team's starting keeper quit the team.
"Burbank was just a better team and they had girls who have probably been playing for years," Dronberger said.