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Crescenta Valley Tries to Push Harvard-Westlake Off Deep End

Girls' water polo: Falcons can stake claim as best team in region with semifinal victory over Wolverines tonight.


With one week remaining in the girls' water polo regular season, a local newspaper tabbed Crescenta Valley High as "The new team to beat" in the region.

Harvard-Westlake, traditionally the team to beat, will have a chance to prove otherwise at 5:30 p.m. today in the Valley College pool, with a berth in Monday's Division III championship game at stake.

Coach Rich Corso of Harvard-Westlake does not play the bulletin-board game, believing that using the printed word to motivate a team can give a false sense of confidence.

"As far as I'm concerned, everybody in the water polo world knows Harvard-Westlake's game," Corso said. "We're going to press, we're going to press hard, we're going to start pressing when they get off the bus."

The Falcons (28-2) defeated Harvard-Westlake (20-6), 5-4, on Dec. 5 at Crescenta Valley.

Coach Peter Kim of Crescenta Valley said the previous victory does not guarantee advancement.

"I know from experience that Harvard-Westlake is a much better team in the post-season," Kim said. "We can't take it for granted that we beat them the first time."

Kim is expecting to see several defensive fronts from the Wolverines, and has been having the Falcons practice with different offenses and defenses in preparation.

He will rotate Ilana Lopez and Laura Claessens at hole set on defense in an attempt to always have a fresh body guarding Courtney Quinn.

The Falcons will also try to contain Paloma Slezak, an All-Southern Section player who was held scoreless in the first meeting.

"I thought last time we played them, we played pretty good defense," Corso said. "What we need to do this time is play better in our frontcourt offense."

Quinn, one of Harvard-Westlake's two All-Southern Section players who suffered neck and shoulder sprains Feb. 8 against Alemany, will return to the starting lineup after missing two games and playing as a reserve in Tuesday's 13-10 victory over Whittier.

Corso said losing Quinn helped the Wolverines play better as a team.

"It gives the other girls confidence [to win without Quinn]," Corso said. "They realize, 'We're good, too.' It actually makes us deeper."

Agoura (25-4) and Ventura (17-7) meet Saturday in a Division II semifinal at noon at Oxnard High.

Top-seeded Agoura beat the Cougars, 13-0, on Nov. 29, but Coach Jason Rosenthal knows Ventura has improved.

Rosenthal said the Chargers will focus on stopping Dolores Johnson and Elizabeth Derse, but not with any particular individual matchup.

"With the team defense we are playing, we are not going to worry about keying in on any player," Rosenthal said. "If they are going to beat us, those two are not going to be the ones to do it. The rest of the team will have to do it."

Coach Mark Schmidt of Ventura attributed his team's showing in the first game to poor fundamentals.

"We lost a lot of counterattacks off of turnovers and we turned the ball over way too many times," Schmidt said. "We need to be more aggressive and control the ball. We rushed a lot of shots and didn't use up the entire 35 seconds on the shot clock. We need to control the ball."

Defending champion Santa Barbara plays Lompoc Cabrillo at 2 p.m. Saturday at Oxnard.

The winners play Wednesday at Pepperdine for the title.

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