Spartans go to great length
La Canada’s Riley Kessler, Left, fights for the ball with Temple City’s Maureen Ho Tuesday. (SGVNStaff Photo Keith BirminghamSXSports)
Question: Are the Spartans the area’s best?
By Keith Lair, Staff Writer
LA CANADA – Last-second, length-of-the-pool shots rarely work in water polo. Most fall harmlessly short or go wide. They typically never come close.
But Tuesday afternoon, La Canada High School goalie Kristine Cato’s last-second first-half shot, from three-quarters of the length of La Canada’s pool, went just above the outstretched hands of Temple City goalie Hannah Hogue and into the net.
The goal gave the Spartans a 5-2 halftime lead and ignited La Canada in a key Rio Hondo League matchup. La Canada scored the first three goals of the third quarter and cruised to a 10-4 victory.
“I didn’t think it was going to make it,” the four-year varsity starter said. “There was a lot of push back behind it. I really wanted to win this game. I’ve made some (shots) before, but not usually. It was a gamble, for sure.”
Spartans coach Steve Silversparre said Cato works on it during practice.
“She’s got a great arm,” he said. “We like to take advantage of it when she can, and it finally went in.”
It wasn’t the Spartans’ lone long shot, either. Liz Toomarian threw in a shot from far outside to start the extra-long shot barrage. She broke a 2-2 tie with 1:50 left in the first half on a shot from about 30 feet.
Jackie Snyder then had the Spartans’ shortest goal, a tip-in off a Hogue blocked shot for a 4-2 lead. After a Rams miss, Cato then directed the offense. She held the ball until right before time expired and launched her three-quarters of the pool shot. When it went in, the Spartans players swam toward Cato and gave her congratulations.
The Spartans (2-0 in league, 15-3 overall) then really started working from the outside. Riley Kessler scored her second goal from about 20 feet and Rachel Connolly scored from the outside. Snyder had another goal from the outside.
“They started off pressuring us once we got the ball in the set a couple of times,” Silversparre said. “That’s when we started dropping back and passing on our sets. Our girls made the shots.”
Hogue and Cato came up with big saves. Hogue kept the Rams (1-1, 5-4) close with five of her 13 saves in the first quarter. Cato had 12 saves, including four in the fourth quarter.
Both teams were tentative in the beginning. La Canada led 2-1 after the first quarter.
“They were very nervous,” Silversparre said. “It was a big game and when we came in our players realized they could hang with this team in the second quarter, they calmed down.”
Temple City had its chances. The Rams had five one-player advantages, but failed to score on any. La Ca ada also failed to score on its lone one-player advantage. In addition, the Rams failed to score on a penalty shot, with Heather Manwaring’s attempt bouncing off the goal post.
“It was a tough loss,” Temple City assistant coach Linda Simmons said. “Hopefully, we’ll play better next time.”
Temple City did not get a shot off for the first 4:19 of the second half. La Canada’s lead went from 5-2 to 8-2 during that span.
“I feel it is an important role for the goalie to really take control of the team, especially on defense,” Cato said.
She controlled the defensive movement, but Silversparre was unhappy with the way the defense played at times.
“We gave away a couple of stupid goals where we blocked the goal and then it went back in,” he said. “We have to control our defense and not let them have control.
“Right now, we’re taking it one game at a time. We’re trying to win league and make it to (the) CIF (playoffs). We’ve had all of our games outside of league, so all we’re doing is concentrating on league.”