Shorthanded Highlanders struggle to keep up with Edison
Playing without two starters, the La Habra water polo team fell behind early and couldn’t recover in a 15-6 loss to Edison, Monday afternoon at Huntington Beach High.
The Highlanders were without key contributors in Sean Pedersen, out due to an eye injury suffered during practice, and Maverick Chen, also out with a right wrist contusion.
All-in-all, the Highlanders had eight active team members, meaning just one sub for the entire game.
Edison jumped early, taking a 6-1 lead at the end of the first quarter. The Highlanders played from behind throughout.
“The key thing I was looking for was for our guys to keep fighting through,” said David Edwards, La Habra head coach. “It was fleeting for a while, but overall I thought they did pretty well. The other key was outside shooting, I still feel like it was hesitant at first. I was upset with the fact that we weren’t attacking smart and when we did, some of the other guys were being lazy and stacking up defenders right behind guys who were attacking the cage.”
With their leading goal scorer sidelined, Grant Harris and Michael Weir stepped up and accounted for all La Habra goals.
Harris led the Highlanders with four goals, most coming from outside shots while Weir did his work inside.
“Those two as seniors need to start pulling their weight,” Edwards said. “Mike has really been stepping up in every game, so I’m happy to see that consistency. Grant is hit or miss sometimes, so to see him take set a couple times and step up overall is a good feeling. Hopefully we see more of that.”
But the Highlanders had a hard time keeping up with Edison, defensively, as the Chargers used quick passing and counterattacks to gain the advantage.
Alec Niederland led the charge with five goals, four of which came in the second half. Justin Harrison, who was dominant against the Highlanders last year at the two-meter, added four goals for Edison.
The Chargers also took advantage of exclusions, scoring four goals with the man-advantage.
Meanwhile, the Highlanders landed just one goal with the advantage.
“I still feel we’re rushing with the advantage,” Edwards said. “They’re not trusting the offense and guys are trying to be a hero or take shots they shouldn’t take.”
Five different Chargers scored in the first quarter as Edison jumped out 6-1. Weir put in La Habra’s only goal on a five-meter penalty shot.
In a low-scoring second quarter, Harris got his first goal, but the Highlanders trailed at half, 7-2.
Edison pulled away again in the third quarter behind Niederland and Harrison, who put up two goals each. The Chargers sealed it in the fourth quarter with two goals on the man-advantage.
Chargers goalkeeper Nick Halloran made nine saves.
Despite the lopsided score, Edwards believes that facing a tough Division 1 school will help his team when it comes to playing the top contenders in the Freeway League.
“It prepares us well, [Edison] is fast, they love to counter and they love to drive, so that will be important for us to be able to handle and maintain our stamina,” Edwards said. “We were down three subs, but we can’t be running out of steam this fast. That’s a key thing, they need to look inside and find opportunities to push past fatigue on defense.”
The Highlanders play in the Canyon Tournament this weekend before starting league play Oct. 8, at Fullerton.
Edwards hopes to have both Pedersen and Chen back from their injuries before league play starts.