PASADENA — An exclamation of “that's beautiful water polo” rang out from the Crescenta Valley High girls' water polo team's bench late in the second quarter of a CIF Southern Section showdown against La Serna Friday.
It was the first of several compliments Falcons Coach Brent Danna shouted to his team in the middle of the game – a 15-3 blowout in his team's favor – at Pasadena City College.
It was a very impressive win for Crescenta Valley after it battled La Serna, which is ranked No. 3 in Division IV, before pulling out a dramatic 13-12 overtime victory last season.
“We expected a very hard, solid game,” said CV's Katie Benson, who had two goals, three assists and five steals in the game. “We just kept pushing it because we knew at any given time they could come back, especially after last year — beating them in overtime — we also had that to motivate us.”
Offensively, the Falcons, who are ranked No. 1 in Division V, got it done with movement and superb passing, as 11 of their goals were assisted.
“We're always looking to make the cross pass on the weak side of the pool,” Danna said. “The first quarter we didn't hit it, so we talked about it in between quarters. We started doing the driving and the next thing you know we're hitting those open girls and boom, boom, boom we're scoring goals like crazy.”
CV was just as impressive on defense, as it shut out La Serna in the second quarter and didn't let up from there. In the end, Crescenta Valley held a 31-20 shot advantage and forced 16 turnovers to its six.
Benson, Danna and Ashley Taylor, who finished with a game-high five goals for CV, all said how much their team loves playing in a big pool, like the one at Pasadena City College.
“We're definitely trained to swim in bigger pools because our coach swims us crazy everyday,” Benson said. “We love playing in bigger pools because it really shows how trained and how well conditioned we are.
“Honestly, playing in the big water really helps because CIF is going to be big for us,” said Taylor, who also had two assists. “It's nice to be playing someone at our level coming into CIF.”
It seemed the Falcons (24-2) and Lancers (14-11) were on an even playing field in the first quarter.
La Serna put together a number of good looks at the cage in the first eight minutes, as it drew three six-on-five opportunities, but failed to score on any with four of its seven shots in the frame going off the post.
It allowed the Falcons to take a 2-1 lead off a pair of goals from Shannon Hovanesian, who finished with four goals and three assists, while the Lancers lone tally came from Gabby Pierandozzi.
“We shot terrible the entire game,” said La Serna Coach Jim Armstrong, who praised the play of Crescenta Valley. “I think if we just shoot OK it's probably 7-5 at halftime, not 7-1, and it's a game the whole way.”
The Lancers simply couldn't keep up with the Falcons from the second quarter on, as CV began flashing its passing ability.
It started when Elissa Arnold took a one-time pass from Benson and buried it on a six-on-five opportunity 1:40 into the frame for a 3-1 lead. Arnold returned the favor a minute later when she assisted on a Benson score.
Hovanesian and Taylor matched that feat after consecutive offensive fouls committed by the Lancers. Benson sparked the first goal from Hovanesian when she took the turnover and threw an outlet pass to Taylor, who worked the ball to Hovanesian for the goal with 3:11 left in the first half.
Thirty-two seconds later came Taylor's goal on a Hovanesian assist, which elicited Danna's “beautiful water polo” statement.
Taylor made a quick cut toward La Serna's cage and Hovanesian, who was on the right side, hit her with a pin-point pass that led to an easy goal.
“It's all the girls, they put in all that hard work,” Danna said. “It's really fun to sit and watch because when the team works as hard as they do you want to see the results and the girls are sure seeing them.”
While Arnold said the game was a statement victory, Danna felt it meant very little in the large scheme of things.
“It means that we won today, it means we're going to look at the game film and we're going to adjust and become better from it, and we're going to play Redlands East Valley [Saturday] – that's all it means,” he said of the dominating victory. “It's just another game until we get into the real season, which starts in a week and a half and that's CIF.”