Lady Highlanders struggle to keep up with Troy’s speed

Kayla Peko scored a goal in the third quarter, but La Habra fell to Troy on the road 13-6, Thursday afternoon.
Kayla Peko scored a goal in the third quarter, but La Habra fell to Troy on the road 13-6, Thursday afternoon.

by Nathan Percy
La Habra Journal

For the first 10 minutes of its second matchup with Troy, the La Habra girls’ water polo team was in good shape and running its defense effectively.

However, midway through the second quarter, the Lady Highlanders started getting into foul trouble, which forced Head Coach Courtney Robertson to put in reserves to save her starters from being ejected.

Because of the switches, Troy got multiple exclusions and took advantage of those 6-on-5 situations, leading to a 13-6 win over the Lady Highlanders, Thursday afternoon at Troy.

“They were doing really well in the defense that I was hoping to see,” said Courtney Robertson, La Habra head coach. “They were pushing really hard with the 6-on-5 defense. We did a hard crash and light press on the outside, which seemed to work because they like to work in to Minna [Mattis, set player]. Then we got a couple ejections and I had to take two starters out due to the fact that they had two ejections in the second quarter. That left us a little vulnerable.”

Of the Lady Warriors 13 goals, five were scored with a player-advantage.

After Gabbi Garcia scored her second goal to pull La Habra within one in the second quarter, Troy pulled away by scoring four goals within the final 2:28 of the first half to turn a 3-2 lead into a 7-3 halftime score.

Senior Ema Armstrong scored the final two of those four goals, the last of which came on a counterattack.

The Lady Warriors (13-9, 8-0) continued to gain separation in the third quarter using counterattacks and speed.

Marissa Vaccher stole an opening pass and drove it the other way for a goal 15 seconds into the second half.

Minna Mattis added two goals in the third quarter from the two-meter position. Mattis was effective yet again for Troy, leading the Lady Warriors with six goals.

Kayla Peko put in the lone goal for La Habra (14-8, 6-2) in the quarter as the Lady Highlanders went into the final frame down 11-4.

Raney Remme and Maria del mar Flores Pompa added a goal each in the fourth quarter.

“Compared to the last time we played them, our passing was better, we were able to move the ball a little more and we took more inside shots today, which was good,” Robertson said. “I would have liked a little more driving on the opposite side, but it’s just one of the things to work on. Offensively, we played a decent game, but we took too many shots right at the goalie. We needed to hit corners, not stomachs.”

The Lady Highlanders remain in second place in league play with games against Sonora and Buena Park coming up in the final week of league play.

Robertson is hoping to regain some momentum before the playoffs.

“With this result, it’s always tough to lose, but our next game is Sonora, so we’re going to try and push it again and regain some confidence so that when we go against Buena Park we can go in with a win on our back and work hard,” Robertson said. “We just want to be prepared, we’re going to keep working our defense and try to improve on offense, that’s all we can do is be prepared.

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