Sports

Troy’s pressing defense overpowers La Habra

Grant Harris (pictured against Sonora earlier this season) scored one of La Habra's two goals to put La Habra up 1-0 in the first quarter.
Grant Harris (pictured against Sonora earlier this season) scored one of La Habra’s two goals to put La Habra up 1-0 in the first quarter.

by Nathan Percy
La Habra Journal

Hoping to repeat the same magic it created over two weeks ago, the La Habra water polo team couldn’t contain an aggressive Troy defense and counterattack, falling 11-2 in a crucial Freeway League contest, Thursday afternoon at Troy High.

In the first meeting between the two teams, the Highlanders ended a Warriors Freeway League winning streak that dated back to before the 2007 season with a 14-12 win.

Down 2-1 at the half, the Highlanders (12-13, 4-4) were in good position to try for a sweep of the Warriors.

Troy (12-10, 7-1) had other ideas.

“I think they played the better game today, they definitely played us better than two weeks ago,” said David Edwards, La Habra head coach. “I thought the calls were a little one-sided, calls that went for them on one side of the pool, I felt weren’t getting called on the other side, but even if we did get those few exclusions, I still think they would have won.”

Pressing the outside shooters, the Warriors caused a handful of turnovers, which led to counterattack possibilities.

The result was a 5-1 advantage for Troy in the third quarter, which carried over into the fourth quarter.

Because of the press, La Habra struggled to maintain possession. Any attempts to get the ball inside were immediately taken away.

“Last time, they thought we would attack down low, so we lit them up from the outside and had plenty of time to shoot,” Edwards said. “This time, they pressed us like crazy and we couldn’t do anything.”

Troy’s Trent Samaha was a big factor on both sides, effectively taking Sean Pedersen out of the mix with his two-meter defense.

On offense, Samaha was either outside dictating the offense, or driving inside to score. He led all scorers with five goals.

“He was able to drive effectively and when he gets down low at center-cage in a catch-and-shoot, there’s no stopping him,” Edwards said of Samaha. “It was nice having Sean back in the pool, but Trent played him very physically and he couldn’t get in set, so I’m hoping he stays positive.”

However, the first half was all about defense. Grant Harris put La Habra up just over a minute into the contest with a long range shot that found the top left corner of the cage.

Troy responded with scores from Johnathan Shim and Samaha.

The two teams went scoreless in the second quarter, with the shot advantage swinging heavily in Troy’s favor. La Habra goalkeeper Corey Edwards was up to the task, with five saves in the second quarter alone.

“Corey’s been having some great games and he was a huge reason we kept it close in the first half,” Edwards said. “We made some mistakes defensively and he was able to cover for that, but as soon as Troy recognized where their openings were and stopped forcing the ball inside, it made it more difficult for Corey to read it.”

Adjustments aided the Warriors in the second half. After Pedersen scored to make the score 3-2, Troy controlled the remaining quarter-and-a-half by pressing the Highlanders outside.

Six different Warriors scored one goal each, while Adrian Barragan and Tommy Georgopoulos assisted three goals each.

Edwards blocked 10 shots on goal in the first half and had 13 saves overall.

The Highlanders will host city rival Sonora, Tuesday at 3:15 p.m.

“We have a big week coming up, if we want to end above .500 then we have to win the next two games,” Edwards said. “There’s no point in crying over the past.”

Started in 1995, the La Habra Journal is an independent community news source serving the cities of La Habra and La Habra Heights.