The Polytechnic girls’ water polo team recently won a thrilling 10-9 victory over Rosary Academy of Fullerton to capture the CIF-Southern Section Division V championship.
Along with the title hardware, the Southern Section crown also came with an invitation to the state playoffs, starting with a match hosting San Pedro High School in the first round.
Against the Pirates, the Panthers came out of the gate strong and cruised to a 17-3 win in the opening round of the CIF SoCal Division III Championships at the Poly Aquatics Center.
“Starting out strong is something we’ve tried to do all season,” Panther coach Sean Grab said. “Sometimes it didn’t work out so well, but today it was good.”
The win came just three days after Pasadena Poly (23-6) had won the Southern Section title.
“It’s a big thing for Poly, such a small school,” Grab said of claiming the Division V crown. “Winning a championship is always an accomplishment and I’m just really proud of the girls.
“Once you win a championship it is easy to sort of get complacent and not want to keep going, but I felt like the energy [against San Pedro] was good,” he added. “They were happy and enjoyed playing with each other, which is important to me.”
Poly, the top seed in the region, went right at San Pedro (8-10) from the start, scoring the first seven goals of the contest in the first 4:26 of the opening quarter.
San Pedro, a City Section school, won the opening sprint, but Poly’s Liz Fogassa stole the ball in the middle of the pool and went for the goal. The senior was fouled and awarded a five-meter penalty shot. Fogassa took it and hit the framework of the cage, but was able to gather the rebound and put it away for the first goal of the game just 27 seconds in.
Poly junior Kaylin Yagura doubled the advantage 1:02 later in transition when she scored from close range.
Fogassa struck again just 17 seconds after that, scoring from close range in transition before the Pirate defense could get organized. The senior netted her third with 4:21 left in the first, firing away into an empty net after the San Pedro goalkeeper had been sent off with an exclusion for throwing the ball away after a foul call.
Twenty-eight seconds later, Fogassa scored again from close range to push the margin to 5-0.
Shortly after that, Natalie Vincent threw a pass across the mouth of the goal to Yagura, who scored.
Then with 2:34 to go, the opening offensive salvo finished when Vincent assisted Fogassa for her fifth goal to make it 7-0.
The Pirates got on the board with 1:36 left. It was a six-goal lead for the Panthers after the first quarter, and the hosts stayed comfortably out front for the remainder of the game.
“I think we just like to go intense at the start. That is just what we really do, just come out super strong, hopefully get up by a couple goals and just go from there,” Fogassa said.
Fogassa, who had scored seven goals in the Southern Section Division V title game, led the way with nine goals in the first round of the State Division III playoffs facing the eighth-seeded Pirates. Yagura followed with six goals, consisting of a pair in each of the first three quarters. Vincent rounded out the scoring for the hosts with two goals.
Poly freshman Georgie Collister, who had 10 saves against Rosary Academy, kept up the strong play with 14 saves versus San Pedro. This included three saves from point-blank range in the second period, which saw the visitors held scoreless, and a save of a five-meter penalty shot early in the third.
“[Collister] had just been incredible. We asked her to step into the role really early on in the year and it just fit her [being] in the goal,” Grab said. “It is awesome to see how she has developed from day one. I cannot say enough about her work ethic. Honestly, she has put us in a lot of really good positions with some big-time saves. I’m super proud of what she has done.”
For San Pedro, the accomplishment was getting this far. This was the first time the program had ever reached the state playoffs on the heels of their deepest run into the L.A. City Section playoffs, a semifinal setback to eventual Division I champion Birmingham High of Lake Balboa.
“I admired [Poly’s] sportsmanship throughout the game,” San Pedro coach Vanessa Hinojosa said, noting how she felt the Panthers had tried to not run up the score. “They played a tough game and I really liked their teamwork.”
Added Grab: “Getting to this point is such a privilege, if they are going to enjoy every moment of it, I am happy for them.”
Unfortunately for the Panthers, their stellar season came to an end in a regional semifinal loss to eventual Division III champion Torrey Pines High of San Diego, 16-3. Individual statistics were not reported to the Outlook.
Poly finished the campaign as undefeated Prep League champions with a 12-0 record (23-7 overall) while winning its first CIF title since 2017.