WHITTIER -- Whittier High School played La Serna High in boys water polo Tuesday afternoon, and it was much more than just two 2-0 teams facing off.
"I told our boys this wasn't just about today or last year," Whittier coach Todd Sprague said. "This was about 30 years of tradition."
This was about two of the area's best water sports programs for a lot of years going after each other in pursuit of a Del Rio League championship and CIF-Southern Section respect.
Whittier (17-2, 3-0) was favored, and the Cardinals won, 18-8, but the score is not indicative of the way the teams played.
Whittier has played better, and at times appeared frustrated by a hard-working, physical La Serna defense.
La Serna (7-17, 2-1) fielded a team that had as many as four sophomores and a freshman in the lineup, and while they never led, they stayed within striking distance until the Cardinals outscored the Lancers 6-1 in the fourth quarter.
"Our seniors had never beaten (La Serna)," Sprague said. "There was a lot of pressure here today, and I think we made some bad decisions, forced some things just because it was La Serna."
Cody Calleros led Whittier with six goals, including three in the third quarter when the Cardinals stretched an 8-5 halftime margin to 12-7. Cory Baccus added four goals and Caleb Manning three while Whittier outshot the Lancers, 28-23.
Goalkeepers Cameron Boulter (Whittier) and Matt Villanueva (La Serna) each recorded five saves, with all of Boulter's occurring in the second half.
"I'm very happy with my boys' efforts," La Serna's first-year coach Jeff Padgett said. "We started trading two goals for one in the second half, and that doesn't add up to winning.
"Whittier has a very powerful offense. I was very happy with the way we played them in the first half, but they just overpowered us in the second half."
La Serna, which trailed 4-2 after one quarter, got three goals each from Marshall Guiboa and Josh Cotton, the latter's coming from long range.
-- Roger Murray can be reached at (562) 698-0955, Ext. 3046, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.