TEMPLE CITY — So, when exactly does the fourth time count as a first accomplishment?
Well, for the South Pasadena High girls’ water polo team, that question was answered Tuesday afternoon at Temple City High.
“Two years ago, we had never won back-to-back and then last year it was three in row. This year, it’s special to keep it going,” Tigers Coach Robert Echeverria said. “I thought we played well for certain parts of the game. We played two quarters well and once we get into CIF, obviously that’s going to have to change.”
The CIF Southern Section Division IV sixth-ranked Tigers (11-6 overall, 7-0 in league) led, 11-6, after three quarters when the Rams (13-9, 6-2) pulled within four on a quick goal from Sara De La Torre at the 6:17 mark of the fourth on what was the final of De La Torre’s three goals.
While Temple City forced turnovers on two of South Pasadena’s next three possessions, the Rams never got any closer as most of their shots from the perimeter did little to faze goalie Tabitha Genato, who only needed to make one save in the quarter.
Perhaps the Rams’ offensive issues were best represented by goalie Catherine Tereszczuk, who took three shots in the fourth quarter and who was 0 for nine on long-distance scoring attempts.
“You can’t really prepare for that. I wasn’t expecting that many shots,” Echeverria said of the full-pool tries. “I guess those were nine possessions that went our way.”
The Tigers eventually broke through a mini-scoring drought when junior Devin Grab, who led all players with eight goals, rifled a six-meter shot passed Tereszczuk at the 4:17 mark to put the Tigers up, 12-7.
The goal spearheaded a 4-0 Tigers run that consisted of two goals from Liza Echeverria (assisted by Grace Algeo and Hannah Vaden) and singles scores from Grab and senior Carolyn Magistrao (assisted by Grab) that iced the game for good as the Tigers went up, 15-7, with 2:14 left.
All that followed was a final goal from the Rams’ Cristina Guevara that was answered 13 seconds later on a penalty-shot goal from Grab.
“It’s nice to win a championship, it’s cool, but I’m kind of used to it. It’s not as much exciting, as it is expected. It would be more disappointing had we lost,” said Grab, who added five steals and three assists. “This was a relief and not to sound cocky, but I think we have the most talent in the league and we’re the most dedicated team. We’re supposed to win.”
Yet, through a quarter and half, the Rams held close with the Tigers, trailing, 2-1, after the first quarter and only being down 6-4 after a Rams’ score from Noelle Rudeen (three goals) with 2:44 left in the second quarter.
South Pasadena did create some separation after that on goals from Vaden and Grab before the half and a score from Liza Echeverria to open the third quarter in taking a 9-4 advantage and eventual 11-5 lead after three quarters.
“It feel really good. I know we have things we have to work on for CIF, but we’re playing like a team,” said Liza Echeverria, who finished with four goals and two steals. “This was nice.”