By Brandon HENSLEY
Brent Danna couldn’t help but excuse himself several times during his postgame interview to go over and hug several people within the Crescenta Valley High administration, including Principal Michele Doll.
Eventually, he had to get back over and talk about why his girls’ water polo team so easily took care of their opponent and how good it felt to be one win away from a championship.
Because that’s where the Lady Falcons are after soundly defeating Redlands East Valley 14-4 in the CIF Southern Section Division V semifinal game at Whittier College on Wednesday.
“We executed, we shot the ball well, we knew the matchups that we needed and the girls stuck to the game plan,” said Danna.
CV will play against Riverside Poly (27-4) at the William Wollett Jr. Aquatic Center in Irvine on Saturday for a CIF championship.
Ashley Taylor led the team with four goals. Breanna Lawton and Katie Benson scored three times each, and goalkeeper Gabriel Isaccson made seven saves.
The Falcons’ win was highlighted by some impressive cross cage high shots and their trademark defensive pressure. Danna repeatedly called for his team to leak out when still on defense as Redlands’ shot clock was about to expire. The pace of the game was always in CV’s favor, and that seemed to tire the Redlands players out.
“We knew our swimming endurance was high, so we knew we could outswim them,” said Lawton.
The Falcons (30-2) beat REV earlier in the regular season 7-4, and many assumed the teams would meet in the semis in what would be a tough match. But this one was over early.
CV broke the game open in the second quarter with five goals to take a 7-0 lead at halftime, including two goals by Lawton, one in which she rifled a shot past REV goalie Alexis Hollinrake from the right side on the perimeter. Taylor also scored on a penalty shot in the frame.
“The girls came out, they shot the ball, they played great defensively, they countered hard for four quarters. You’re not supposed to win a semifinals game by 10 goals,” said Danna. “Sometimes you just have to shrug your shoulders.”
The Falcons converted all three 6-on-5 chances, while REV was two-for-five. Redlands finally scored in the third quarter with two goals. Danna said the game plan was to key in on Madison Sandoval and Mikayla Vessey, and he was happy with his team’s execution.
“If we could do our best to neutralize those great players, we thought we had a pretty good chance,” he said. Vessey scored one goal.
CV had made its last two semifinal games under former coach Pete Loporchio, who was in attendance. Players were happy to finally break through on Wednesday.
“I can’t even begin to describe how good it feels,” said Lawton.
“It feels like we finally reached the goal that we’ve been fighting for, that I’ve been fighting for, for three years,” said junior Elissa Arnold, who scored a goal and had two steals.
While Arnold said Loporchio has given nothing but “support and love,” the team has credited Danna’s hard conditioning program with being a big reason CV is this close to a title.
“It’s our work ethic that’s going to get us there, not us thinking, ‘We got this,’” said Arnold. “It’s all backed up by conditioning, which obviously showed in this game. We swam our hearts out.”