LA CAÑADA FLINTRIDGE — The two-goal deficit the La Cañada High girls' water polo team faced in the fourth quarter of its Rio Hondo League game against Temple City was a lot bigger than it seemed.
Offense was almost nonexistent Tuesday, which spelled disaster for the Spartans when they were put in a two-goal hole after the Rams scored on their first possession of the fourth quarter for a 4-2 lead. The lead held up as Temple City won by that score.
La Cañada Coach Kristen Dronberger was proud of her team's performance, despite the result.
"We came to play today and came fired up from the very beginning," Dronberger said. "I couldn't be more proud of them, even though we did lose. We are learning and we're a young team. Everything is looking a lot better than it was a month or two ago."
The Rams' Brittany Ribaya scored on a deep shot 20 seconds into the final quarter, giving Temple City the biggest lead of the game. La Cañada's offense didn't have an answer as it turned the ball over on all but one of its eight fourth-quarter possessions. Temple City was content to drain clock on the rest of its possessions and hold on for the win.
The Spartans (3-8, 1-1 in league) struggled offensively, committing 24 turnovers in the game. They were always within striking distance, though, thanks to their defense.
"I am incredibly happy with our defense, it looks phenomenal," said Dronberger, whose team only gave up a goal on one of five Temple City six-on-five opportunities. "We were helping where we needed to help and switching when we needed to make switches. ...Defense is the heart of everything. If you can't play defense you can't win."
Vanora Chapman, La Cañada's goalkeeper, benefited from the play of her team's defense, making 11 saves in the game.
"Vanora played excellent," Dronberger said. "I am happy with the way she is playing and the way the girls are helping her. A good defense will funnel the balls straight to your goalie and I think that's what happened today."
Temple City (2-0 in league) had difficulty finding the back of cage as a result, despite firing off 27 shots (15 on target) in the game. The Rams got on the board first with 1:25 remaining in the first quarter when a Yukiyo Veda shot found the back of the cage after going off Chapman's fingertips.
La Cañada knotted the game at 1 with 4:47 to go in the second quarter on a turnaround shot from Shelby Powell down low. Temple City took a 2-1 lead with 2:38 to go in the half on a goal from Christine Nowak.
Miranda Mora squared it back up at 2 with a Spartans goal with 5:32 left in the third quarter. La Cañada had a chance to take its first lead of the game with a six-on-five advantage and a minute left in the third, but the ensuing shot was off the mark.
The Rams retook the lead, 3-2, with 17 seconds remaining in the third on a goal from Ribaya.