Defense Leads Falcons’ Water Polo into Semifinals

Audrey Taylor takes a penalty shot in Saturday's quarterfinal victory over Ayala.
Photos by Brandon HENSLEY
Audrey Taylor takes a penalty shot in Saturday’s quarterfinal victory over Ayala.

By Brandon HENSLEY

Most in the Crescenta Valley High aquatics program call her Mack, but her nickname on Saturday should have been Big D. Mackenzie Drewe, the senior goalkeeper for the Lady Falcons water polo team, came up big, as did the rest of the defense in the Falcons’ 10-4 victory over the Ayala Bulldogs of Chino Hills in the CIF-SS Division IV quarterfinal game at Pasadena City College.

“Mackenzie had an amazing game. It’s one of the best games so far. She really pulled through,” said senior Audrey Taylor. “Every game is a defensive game. Defense wins games, that’s for sure.”

The low-scoring affair was in contrast to the Falcons’ first round game on Thursday, a 17-2 thrashing of Arlington at Burbank High School. It was 4-1 after the first quarter, which included a Taylor goal on a penalty shot (she missed another penalty shot later in the game).

The Falcons will play No. 1 seed Royal in the semifinals on Wednesday at Diamond Bar High School at 7 p.m.

An Ayala goal made it 4-2 in the second quarter, but that was as close as the Bulldogs, who were shut out in the fourth quarter, would get. Much of it was thanks to Drewe, who tallied 10 saves, many of which had velocity not usually seen against foes in the Pacific League. Drewe also made a couple of impressive saves on lob shots by Arlington, which drew loud cheers from the CV supporters. Drewe called it one of the best games she’s ever played.

“I believe I blocked key shots,” she said. “One of my goals is to block shots that help the counter [attack], and I think I did that. I also improved in the game because I blocked a lot of lobs. Usually, they’re not my strong suit.”

“She was really good today. She was on fire, blocking shots,” Brynn Fernandez said.  Fernandez is another senior, and who along with Taylor are the only players on the team to have experienced a CIF championship, which they won in 2013.

“I’m really excited this year. My freshman year it was me and Audrey as the only players from that time that won CIF. We want to do that again,” Fernandez said.

Fernandez believes a key to this team’s success is good communication, which helps to block shots on defense. Then, when CV has the ball, it likes to push hard on the counter attack for quick goals. All of that starts with communication.

Taylor said this year’s team has better chemistry than it did last year, when it lost in the quarterfinals. To make it past the quarters this year, it took more patience on the offensive end. Coach Ricky Mulcahey could be heard harping on his team to stop rushing so much in the front court.

“We were rushing, making bad passes,” Taylor agreed. “Passing to the wrong player. But we fixed that. We were using the clock wisely at the end of the game, because we were up and we didn’t want to turn it over.”

CV played Ayala twice this year, splitting the games. Perhaps that helped in preparation.

“We did know what to expect because of the experience, and both games were very different,” said Drewe, who admitted to being nervous before the match. A pregame talk with her teammates helped calm her nerves, and gain confidence.

“This game was definitely the one our eyes were on all season, so for us, it wasn’t about thinking about semis, it was, let’s do our best in this game, and then move forward,” she said.

And move forward they will. If Crescenta Valley wins against Royal, which scored 23 goals on Saturday, it’ll advance to the championship game for the second time in four years.

“I want to go all the way,” Taylor said. “I did kind of expect to go farther this year because of the team we have. We play together better than we did last year.”

Brynn Fernandez
Brynn Fernandez