LA CRESCENTA — With the holidays around the corner, a school break nearing and all the potential for a letdown against a surging nonleague foe, the elements for an upset were at least present for the Crescenta Valley High girls’ water polo team Tuesday afternoon versus visiting San Marino.
And perhaps it could be argued that the Titans did indeed challenge the reigning CIF Southern Section Division V champions in three of four quarters.
“Today we had a lot of things to focus on,” said Falcons Coach Brent Danna, whose squad is off until the start of Pacific League play on Jan. 8. “We definitely wanted to work on our cross passing and drops on defense.
“Regardless of who we play, we have things that we need to work on as a team.”
The Falcons (8-3), currently tied for second in the latest Division V rankings with Downey, virtually sealed the contest by dominating the first quarter and taking a commanding 7-0 lead.
Yet, more impressive than the offense of the Falcons was the defense that propped it up.
Crescenta Valley forced 10 turnovers – all via steals – that led to all but one goal in the quarter, as the Falcons outshot the Titans (6-3), runners-up of the recent Burbank Tournament, by an 11-3 margin.
Falcons utility player Ani Aghakhanian proved one of her team’s bigger catalysts as she assisted three goals, scored another and tallied three steals in first quarter.
Aghakhanian’s first goal came right after she assisted Elissa Arnold (three goals, two steals and two assists) on a score, as the Falcons dashed out to a 3-0 advantage with 5:56 remaining in the first.
Aghakhanian then received a pass off a steal from Audrey Taylor (four goals, five steals and two assists) and fed teammate Natalie Krebsbach for a goal with 5:23 remaining that put the Falcons up, 4-0.
For good measure, Aghakhanian stole San Marino’s next possession and picked up an assist when Taylor scored to give Crescenta Valley a five-goal advantage.
While the Falcons were scoring at will, they were also denying the Titans shots, as Crescenta Valley came up with a steal on San Marino’s first five possessions of the game.
The Titans’ first shot on goal at the 4:11 mark followed six shots already taken by the Falcons.
“Coach Danna always has goals for us no matter who we play,” said Aghakhanian, who finished with two goals, six steals and four assists. “We only really focus on what we’re doing and don’t really look at the other team.”
In an interesting twist, partly fueled by substitutions by Danna, the Titans outplayed the Falcons in the second period, outshooting Crescenta Valley, 7-5, while committing one fewer turnover.
Yet, in a testament to its defense, Crescenta Valley only surrendered one goal in the second quarter and took an 8-1 advantage into the break.
San Marino’s goal in the second, a score from senior driver Kate Scannell (team-high three goals) at the 3:47 mark, helped snap the Titans’ 10 minute, 13-second drought.
Unfortunately for Scannell’s squad, the unit went another 14:07 before its next goal. By then, the Falcons had taken a 12-1 lead midway through the fourth quarter.
Overall, the Falcons goaltending platoon of Tiffany Duarte and Mackenzie Drewe combined for 12 saves.
“This was a great game to reward everyone on this team and to get them time,” Danna said. “I know there were things we could have done better today, but given the circumstances, we did well.”