Fast start propels LA girls past Paly

Megan V. Winslow/Town Crier
Los Altos High senior Margo Lusinchi prepares to shoot as a Palo Alto High defender closes in on her Thursday.

When you lose, learn from it. That’s the message Los Altos High girls water polo coach Katie Buzzetta has conveyed to her team all season.

Based on last week’s results, the players are heeding her advice.

Two days after a slow start doomed the Eagles in a 14-9 home loss to rival Mountain View, they jumped to an early lead Thursday against Palo Alto and never relinquished it. Visiting Los Altos won 7-4 to sweep the season series with the Vikings and remain in the playoff hunt.

“I tell them it’s not always about winning, because I think a lot of the times we learn more from those losses and they kind of stick to us a little longer,” Buzzetta said. “As much as it hurts, it’s a nice fuel for the fire to keep the girls working for something.”

The Eagles looked focused from the opening sprint, scoring on the first possession of the game when Veronica Hsu fired a midrange shot over the outstretched arms of Paly goalie Joanna Falla.

A minute later, Hsu converted a backhand shot to make it 2-0.

Los Altos led 4-2 by quarter’s end, with Julia Santos answering both of the Vikings’ goals.

“I’ve been stressing to the girls to get in a good warm-up and be ready to go from the start; it’s definitely one of the challenges we’ve faced so far,” said Buzzetta, whose squad improved to 5-4 in the Santa Clara Valley Athletic League De Anza Division and 8-6 overall. “It’s something we’ve really been talking about and focusing on – putting four full quarters together.”

Los Altos didn’t quite do that Thursday, struggling to score in the second quarter. The Eagles failed to produce a point (two shots bounced off the crossbar), but they didn’t surrender any, either.

Holding just a two-goal halftime lead on a team they trounced 11-4 three weeks earlier didn’t sit well with Los Altos players like Santos and senior starter Margo Lusinchi.

“I remember Santos looking over to me and being like, ‘Margo, we can’t lose this game,’ and I was like, ‘Absolutely, we can’t – we just can’t,’” Lusinchi said. “‘If we do, I don’t know what I’ll do.’”

The Eagles alleviated some of that anxiety in the third quarter. Goals by Hsu and Santos, who scored on a skip shot, extended the Los Altos lead to 6-2 before Paly’s Sophie Frick drilled a long-range attempt with 25 seconds left.

Santos responded by making the first shot of the fourth, giving the Eagles a 7-3 edge with 6:45 remaining. The junior finished with four goals to pace the Eagles; senior Hsu totaled three.

Paly found the back of the net midway through the quarter, but Los Altos clamped down on defense the rest of the way.

The game ranks as one of the best defensive efforts of the year for the Eagles, who surrendered a season-high 14 goals to Mountain View in their previous contest.

“I think the strong set players and strong girls we had to watch out for on Mountain View set us up to always have your head on a swivel and be ready to split on defense and drop back and communicate with your teammates,” Lusinchi said. “I thought there was a lot of communication in this game.”

Buzzetta also liked what she saw – and heard – on defense.

“We’re trying to run more of a split or kind of a zone defense, and it’s taken us a while to adjust to that,” she said, “but the girls have been working really hard and have seen some huge steps forward.”

Los Altos is scheduled to visit Fremont 6:45 p.m. Thursday.

Spartans roll on

Mountain View followed its 14-9 win over Los Altos by clobbering Cupertino 20-3 Thursday.

Gabriella Matafora Adams – who led the Spartans with six goals against the Eagles – tallied four versus Cupertino, as did Malena Nguyen.

Host Mountain improved to 7-2 in the De Anza Division and 15-2 overall.

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