CVHS water polo plays today for a league championship, while looking ahead to the CIF playoffs next week.
By Brandon HENSLEY
Mackenzie Drewe instantly thought of several names when asked who has been the main contributor to this year’s Lady Falcons water polo team, a squad once again in the midst of a dominating season. Of course, there is Audrey Taylor, the big-time scorer wrapped in a small body, but she’s an easy name to drop.
Instead, Drewe, the Falcons’ senior goalkeeper, unleashed a few more names of those worthy of both praise and press coverage; players like Esma Dollaku, Kaitlyn Moguel and Alexandra Garas. The Falcons are a deep team to be sure, and that versatility was on display Tuesday evening at Burbank High School during the Pacific League Tournament, which has basically acted like an annual coronation for Crescenta Valley every February for some time now.
The Falcons earned at least a share of the Pacific League, easily handling the Glendale Nitros 23-6 and setting up the title game today at 5:30 p.m. at Burbank High. They’ll take on Burroughs (5-1 in league), which defeated Arcadia earlier on Tuesday in the first game of the prelims. (The top four teams in league play in the prelims and the winners of the first game face each other for the league championship.)
Crescenta Valley (24-4, 7-0 in league) has owned the Pacific League for six seasons now, thanks in large part to an explosive offense. Again in 2016, the offense is potent, scoring 106 goals in league play, compared to Burroughs, which is second most with 79. Garas, a freshman, led the way vs. Glendale with nine goals (Taylor has seven). It was 6-1 after the first quarter, 12-2 at halftime, and after that coach Ricky Mulcahey began using more substitutes as the Falcons coasted.
Garas, a utility player, credited a smooth running offense for the team’s success.
“It’s hard for me to explain because it’s such a strong team. You have Esma at center, Audrey, Kaitlyn Moguel, all of them on the perimeter, and Mack in goal,” she said.
While Garas was a nightmare for the Nitros, Drewe acknowledged the closeness of each senior player, which has made this final go-round fulfilling.
“All the seniors know that it’s our last go at it, and it can get sentimental at times, but really, the team is the closest it’s ever been, and I love my teammates,” Drewe said.
The Falcons last won a CIF title in 2013, when Drewe was a freshman on the JV team. She’s shared time at goalie the past couple of seasons with Tiffany Duarte, who graduated in 2015. Now it’s just Drewe in the cage, and she’s been relishing her opportunity. She’s spent time in her high school career with former CV coach Pete Loporchio, working on her game, gaining strength and learning to get higher out of the water for saves.
“I have to say I enjoy it,” she said of being the lone keeper. “I miss Tiffany but I do like that you have the whole [playing] time. You own the whole game, and you get in a rhythm.”
Her success might have something to do with her height. Standing at a slender 5’11,” it wouldn’t be shocking if she garnered comparisons to Taylor Swift around campus. She said her superior wingspan benefits her play, allowing her to reach balls perhaps others wouldn’t be able to.
“I’m not saying shorter goalies aren’t good, I’m just saying height is an advantage,” she said.
Playing for a team with as much talent as this one has been an advantage for Garas. She’s no stranger to top competition – she’s competed with older players at Rose Bowl Aquatics – but she said this year has only made her more confident.
“I was nervous. As a freshman, I’m with seven seniors, and I didn’t know how they were going to treat me and accept me into the team,” Garas said. “But we started practicing together and I got close with them. It’s a real good experience.”
Both Taylor and Mulcahey have spoken fondly of Garas, and how she’s been a focal point of the team’s success. Garas said that she is happy to hear that and it makes her proud because of all the hard work she puts into practice.
The CIF Division IV playoff brackets will be announced this weekend, and then next week the postseason starts. It will be an exciting time for both Drewe and Garas. When it ends, whenever that may be, Drewe will perhaps be the more emotional player. Nonetheless, next week begins another chance to win the program’s second CIF championship, something everyone on the team seems ready for.
“It’s kind of shocking that we’re finally here,” Drewe said. “Just saying, that it’s been a long season and we’re here and we’re pumped.”
“I’m excited for CIF,” Garas said. “After league, it’s going to be a challenge to get to the top.”