By Walsh CARVALHO
The Pacific League boys varsity water polo finals continue today at Burbank High School, where the Crescenta Valley Falcons (17-8,8-0), led by coach Jan Sakonju, take on the Glendale Nitros (6-1,18-5) and try to retain their title of Pacific League champions for a second year in a row. The game is being hosted by Burbank High, 902 n. 3rd St. in Burbank starting at 5:15 p.m. today, Thursday, Nov. 5t
The Falcons under coach Sakonju are coming off a championship season in 2008 where they managed to climb all the way to the top and win the CIF-SS Division 6 championship. They beat out the Pacific View leagues number one seed Rio Mesa in a tight victory with the final score of 10-9. Due to the league’s calculations, the Falcons are first in the league, but third in the division, behind the Prep and Pacific View leagues Webb and Rio Mesa, respectively.
The Falcons however are not thinking about any of these numbers; they are solely focused on the numbers they plan to put on the board tonight against the Nitros.
The Nitros played the Hoover Tornados on Tuesday to determine who would advance to the final game. At first sight it looked like Hoover had Glendale’s number, but as the game proceeded, the Nitros managed to blow the Tornados out of the water. At one point the Bulldogs trailed over five points, but with five minutes left on the clock, they were tied.
There coach Sakonju sat watching one of his potential opponents and prepared. Not only did he have his mind on Tuesday’s game but like any good coach he also had his mind on the next round. Coach Sakonju watched as the Bulldogs pulled of a 13-11 win and advanced to the final round.
Now it was the Falcons turn to get into the water and take on the number four seeded Pasadena High Bulldogs (9-9,3-4). The winner of that game would have the privilege of taking on Glendale today in the finals.
The Falcons came out extremely strong and ready to play – you could see that right out of the gates. CV won the first swim and just like that, with only 30 seconds off the clock, the Falcons Alan Dearman quickly scored the first goal of many on the night.
CV jumped out to a quick start with a few more goals in the first quarter, including a pair by Robby Ruzicka, before Pasadena was able to get their first goal of the game. The first quarter was coming to a draw just as Dearman scored his second goal of the showdown with just 40 seconds left on the clock.
At the start of the second quarter CV had a commanding score of 7-1. The pace slowed down a bit in the second with only a total of four goals between both teams. The Falcons now led 10-2.
The Falcons goalie Rane Colvin managed to keep them to only one goal per quarter blocking a total of 21 shots throughout the game. He will definitely need to play like that today against the Nitros who look to explode on the Falcons.
The Falcons heated back up in the third quarter compiling another five goals, including three more from Dearman, who ended up with a total of five goals on the night. Offensively and defensively Dearman was very tough which showed in front of the goal as he helped his goalie Colvin, have a nearly flawless game.
“I felt strong! We’ve been training really hard, and I just try to give as much to my team as I can,” said Dearman. And that he did.
The third quarter was coming to an end and the Falcons held onto a 15-3 lead. As the fourth quarter started up the Falcons looked poised, ready for more.
A few more they would receive as Falcon Matt Peters started the quarter with his fourth goal of the night. Peters was the only Falcon player to score in every quarter. Moments after Peters scored, Daniel Olson was fouled by Pasadena’s Andrew Phillips and was granted a 5-meter penalty shot.
As the referee was about to blow his whistle, a Pasadena parent yelled from the stands, “Don’t look into his eyes, he never throws it where he is looking!” Well Pasadena goaltender Jonathan Sanchez must have been looking into his eyes, because that ball didn’t just find a piece of the net, it found all of it!
The Falcons walked away with a victorious score of 18-4, and moved one more step closer to retaining their title.
Coach Sakonju was happy with his team. “[They] looked sharp today, the key for them is staying sharp,” said the coach. “Being focused and working together as a team, that’s how we won the division last year.” That’s how they will need to play today in order to beat Glendale.
Glendale, who is seeded second in the league and seventh in the division, is a formidable opponent. “They play a very physical game which is an excellent match up. You want an opponent who pushes you to the next level,” said Sakonju. The next level is exactly what the Falcons are hoping to achieve. Coach Sakonju likes to play with this caliber of a team because it brings out the best in his players.
Today’s game will determine many factors in the CIF-SS Division 6 playoffs. The brackets will all be set at 11:00 a.m. this Sunday, Nov. 8. Check CIFSS.org for updates.
The division wildcard games will be played Tuesday, Nov. 10, with the first round of Division 6 playoffs starting Thursday, Nov.12. The second round of playoffs will be held on Saturday, Nov.14; time and location are yet to be determined.
The championship round will be held Saturday, Nov.21 at Wm. Woollett Jr. Aquatics center in Irvine. Check back next week for more details and for the result of today’s Pacific League finals.