PASADENA — Admittedly, the Pasadena Poly girls' water polo team didn't begin the first quarter of its first round CIF Southern Section Division VI playoff game the way it liked.
The Prep League champion Panthers, who entered the 2013 postseason as the division’s second-seeded squad, trailed for most of the first quarter and appeared sluggish.
“Nervous might be an understatement for the first quarter. It just seemed like the girls had trouble getting going,” Panthers Coach Ryan Katsuyama said. “We were just sort of getting a feel for what they had and for what they were running and we were a little flat.”
The victory vaults Poly (22-2) into Saturday’s second round showdown at Ocean League champion Culver City (23-1), the divisional seventh seed, at 11 a.m.
As for Thursday’s action, the Indians (17-8) shocked the Panthers in taking a 2-1 lead after goals from Silvana Cespedes and Sophie MacEwan, with the later score coming with 3:16 left in the quarter.
Poly responded in tying the match with 47.3 seconds left on a goal from sophomore Lindsey Kelleher (game-high seven goals, four steals and three assists), who was assisted by Allison Woo.
However, it wasn’t an assist from Woo, but a score that changed momentum for the Panthers.
After an Indians miss with 10 seconds left, Woo took possession and fired a three-quarter pool-length shot that just tucked inside the right post and out of the reach of Indians goalie Harley Hochanadel, which gave Poly a 3-2 lead after one quarter.
“I was just trying to get a good shot and I didn’t think it’d go in,” said Woo, who finished with three goals, four assists and three steals.
The goal was the second of what was an eventual 14-0 run in which the Panthers dominated the rest of the contest.
Poly created separation with a 4-0 second quarter fueled by two goals from Alex Clark (two goals, two steals and two assists) and single scores from Christina McCarthy and Woo.
If a 7-2 halftime lead wasn’t enough, the Panthers scored on five of their first six possessions of the third quarter in eventually finishing with a 13-2 advantage after three periods.
While the offensive output was impressive, Woo and Co.’s defense was just as noteworthy.
“We knew who [Palm Springs’] top two shooters were and our job was to try to shut them down and make the other players beat us,” Katsuyama said. “The defense did a great job of limiting their chances.”
Palm Springs’ top two scoring threats, Savana Cummings and MacEwan, were held to one total goal as the Panthers’ defense forced 14 turnovers and limited the Indians to mostly perimeter shots.
“The goal was simple, to shut down [Cummings and McEwan],” Woo said. “The defense tried its best to do that.”
The Panthers goaltending duo of Alyssa Paul and Natalia Sanchez-Nigolian was also stout in the defensive effort in finishing with eight combined saves.
Hochanadel was admirable in defeat for Palm Springs, as the goalie finished with 12 saves.