Lady Highlanders fall in championship, still chasing Troy

By Jason Burch
La Habra Journal

Bearing a striking resemblance to their defeat just eight days prior, the Lady Highlanders water polo team fell short in its quest to win the Freeway League Finals tournament, dropping the championship game to Troy 9-6 on Thursday night at Sonora High School.Lions Pasta Fest 2016

Last week the two teams faced off at Buena Park High School to determine who would enter the tournament as the No. 1 seed, and although it was a much higher scoring contest, Troy pulled out a 3-goal victory in overtime.

Down 8-3 with under a minute to play in the third, it appeared the Lady Warriors had pulled away for good. La Habra refused to quit though and finally began to turn the tides in the pool.

With :38 to go in the period they scored a goal that awoke the La Habra-heavy crowd and sparked a momentous final surge that carried over into the final period.

The Lady Highlanders continued to close the gap in the fourth with goals from Roni Ramirez on a penalty shot from 5 meters out at 6:38 and a skip shot from Natasha Velez at 3:49, cutting the deficit to 8-6. A minute later Celeste Solis found an opening from 4 meters out and fired a shot past the outstretched arms of La Habra goalkeeper Maddi Garcia, putting an end to the Lions Pasta Fest 2016comeback. Troy strategically played keep away the final two minutes to seal the victory.

Perhaps feeling the pressure of the big game, La Habra came out sluggish early and it was the difference in the game. Trailing 3-0 after the first period, the Lady Highlanders steadily chipped away at the lead the rest of the way, but couldn’t quite overcome the lackluster beginning.

Head Coach Courtney Robertson chalked up the Lady Highlanders’ early woes to nerves.

“It was just that pre-game nervousness and they just caught off-guard basically, but once they got their heads under control and got themselves calmed down they played a great game,” Robertson said.Lions Pasta Fest 2016

The girls snapped out of the funk and found the back of the net for three goals in the second, but could only keep pace, as Troy matched their total in the period.

“We came out slow, but got the momentum back,” Robertson said. “I think it shows that the girls have a lot of heart and a lot of talent.”

Robertson was pleased with the way the girls fought their way back into the game, especially considering this was their eighth game in as many days she said.

She was also very encouraged with the defensive effort, pointing out that they held Troy’s top two scorers, Ava Mattis and Claire Schade to just three goals combined.

“Natasha, Danielle and Roni all played a great game defensively,” Robertson said. “I was really proud of all of them, they all played with heart and they played with the talent they were given.”Lions Pasta Fest 2016

The Lady Highlanders will get some well deserved and much needed rest this weekend, before beginning CIF next week. Robertson said that she is hoping for a home game on Wednesday, but they won’t find out who and where they play until Saturday when CIF pairings are announced.

“We are going to relax this weekend, take a little bit of time and get some sleep you know– we are tired, all of us are,” Robertson said. “If we can get some rest, we will be perfectly planned and ready for CIF next week.”

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