By Brandon HENSLEY
There will be no repeat.
The Crescenta Valley High School girls’ water polo team was denied a chance at its second straight CIF Division V championship on Wednesday when the Lady Falcons were eliminated by the Warren Bears in the semifinal round 16-9 at Whittier College.
Led by the great plays of Kayla Casas, who recorded a game-high 10 goals, the Bears jumped out to a 2-0 lead and CV had to play catch-up all game and couldn’t sustain any kind of consistency.
The Falcons had won its first two playoff games 13-3 over Downey and 11-4 over Temescal Canyon. One more win and Coach Brent Danna’s team would have been going to Irvine to play for another championship, which the Falcons won last year over Poly Riverside, the program’s first ever CIF title.
“They’re deep and they’re fast and they’re fundamentally sound,” Danna said of Warren, which went 19-9 in the regular season to win San Gabriel Valley League.
Warren’s defense was up to the challenge against CV’s two-meter players, seniors Elissa Arnold and Ashley Taylor. Arnold finished with one goal and three assists and said she was frustrated at both the lack of chances near the net and the shots that just missed, mostly due to active hands from the opposition.
When Warren had the ball, the Falcons were a step behind.
“Their play is very physical and very quick,” she said. “They’re good at reading the game quickly and it was hard for us to adjust defensively.”
Taylor had one goal and two assists. Sophomore Audrey Taylor led the team with five goals, but it wasn’t enough, especially against Casas who scored from all over and used several spin moves to free herself against CV’s defense. Danna said he knew she was this good, and Arnold was impressed as well.
“At some point we were like, ‘Okay we can’t leave her,’” she said.
The Falcons trailed 5-2 in the second quarter, then scored twice on goals by both Taylor girls, but that was as close as they would ever get. It was 9-4 at halftime and 12-6 at the end of the third quarter.
“We had girls on the perimeter who were looking to force the ball rather than attack in a take the shot,” Danna said of his team’s offense.
Still, while Arnold was frustrated, she said she realizes her time as a Falcon is something to be proud of. The program advanced to the semifinals all four years she was here, and that includes her owning a CIF championship ring, something Danna reminded the girls of after the game. After Pete Loporchio stepped down as head coach in 2012 the Falcons haven’t had a drop off.
“It’s incredible,” said Arnold, who will play for the University of Michigan next year. “This program has been built so well, going from Loporchio’s hands to Danna’s hands. It was kind of a big change but it boosted the program.
“I guess proud would be the right word,” she added, “to be a part of such a legacy of such of a great program.”
Other seniors who played their final game in blue and white were MacKenzie Duke, Natalie Krebsbach and Lynley Fernandez.
Replacing goaltender Gabriel Isacson, who was All-CIF last season, was a challenge, but both Mackenzie Drewe and Tiffany Duarte did well enough to contribute to 22 wins and another Pacific League title in 2014.
“They worked their butts off to help get us to this point and I’m so proud of our goalies,” Arnold said.
“We have two huge holes to fill,” Danna said of Arnold and Taylor leaving, “but out goaltenders are one year older, Audrey is one year older. I’d love to win every single game but it’s not going to happen.”
Taylor, who will play for Azusa Pacific University next year, said she was just plain proud of her team after the loss.
“I would say making it this far is so good for the girls coming up to get this experience and for [the seniors] to have this experience going to college and moving on with our lives.”
The loss on Wednesday goes down a little bit smoother knowing they’ll always be CIF champs.
“We have a ring, we have T-shirts, we have patches,” Taylor said. “I’m so proud of us.”