SOUTH PASADENA — Despite facing its first serious competition within the Rio Hondo League, there were so seismic shifts in the league standings and no upset Tuesday afternoon for the La Cañada High boys water polo team.
The CIF Southern Section Division top-ranked Spartans started strong, overcame a power play disadvantage and held back a mini-rally from the host Tigers in a 14-8 victory.
“There were way too many kickouts for my liking and that’s definitely something that we’ve got to correct there,” Spartans Coach Devon Borisoff. “But overall, I was impressed with how our five-on-six defense held up today. I thought our goalie Jeff Lee played great and our senior leaders stepped up.”
La Cañada (12-6 overall, 4-0 in league) had pounded three previous league foes by a combined score of 65-15 and looked to do the same versus the Tigers (12-6, 2-2) in racing out to a 5-1 halftime advantage, thanks to a pair of goals from Symeon Stefan, which ballooned to an 8-1 lead after a kick out of South Pasadena’s Alex Zoveined resulted in goal from Bryce Hopkins with 3:17 left in the third.
South Pasadena, which was playing its first match in two weeks with head coach Robert Echeverria, who was out on paternity leave, rallied back with three scores, the final from Zoveined with 27 seconds left that brought the Tigers within 8-4.
The Tigers’ rally was met with action, though, as La Cañada fought back with three straight scores from Chase Borisoff, Stefan and Alden Geller to go up, 11-4, with 5:56.
“South Pas came out with a little fire in the second half, absolutely, and there’s always that little lull when you get up by that many goals, but I always try to keep them focused and give them little goals in between every quarter,” Coach Borisoff said. “Yeah, they made a run at it and they’re a top-10 team in our division and a possible quarterfinal matchup for us.”
To the Tigers’ credit, they mounted a final stand in scoring two straight goals from Pierce Deamer and Adrian Suarez, to rally within 11-6 with 2:33 left.
However, the Spartans again quickly countered with a goal from Hopkins that doubled up South Pasadena, 12-6, and virtually ended the game.
“It’s always fun to come to South Pas for a big rivalry week and this is our last year as seniors,” said Chase Borisoff. “It was emotional.”
While the contest lost a little luster after the Echeverria-less Tigers were upset by Temple City last week, 14-13, South Pasadena still had its chances with 11 kickouts.
Yet, the Tigers had trouble converting their breaks, scoring on only four chances (.363 scoring percentage) in comparison to La Cañada’s six-of-eight ratio (75%).
“That’s been our biggest problem this year that I’ve notice,” said Echeverria, who noted he will be leaving the boys’ team after the season to take a position at Pasadena City College. “It’s something that we’re definitely going to be focusing on in practice.”
Stefan led the Spartans with five goals, while Hopkins, Peter Loakes and Chase Borisoff added two goals each and Lee finished with eight saves.
South Pasadena goalie Will Renken totaled nine saves, while seven Tigers each knotted a score, with two goals from Matt Defulgentiis leading the way.