In a commitment to improving, the Spartans scheduled matches against
only CIF Southern Section Division I opponents in their nonleague
schedule. And in doing so, they accepted the fact that they wouldn't come
out unscathed, but they would begin Rio Hondo League play a lot better.
"That's what I want," La Canada Coach Larry Naeve said. "We play all
Division I teams. I don't want to play a bad team and win, 24-2. You
don't improve that way. It's from games like this that you get better."
Seriously, because the way the Cubs -- ranked No. 8 in Division I --
played Tuesday, La Canada either had to step up or step out of the way.
The Spartans, to their coach's delight, rose to the occasion.
They didn't win, but they certainly didn't give in.
"We just gave them too many opportunities -- but that's probably what
everyone says when the other team gets more goals," Naeve said. "But that
is the case. And I think we played hard and with intensity."
Led by aggressive make-something-happen play of junior Joe Ondrejcka,
La Canada refused to let the Cubs run away with the match, despite
falling behind early.
Loyola's Patrick Fucci started the scoring with the first of his five
goals with 5:35 to go in the first quarter. The Cubs just kept it going
from there, scoring once more in the first, and then three times in each
of the remaining quarters, managing to stay a couple steps ahead of La
That they didn't score more often is a credit to the Spartans' Rob
Low, who saved nearly half of the Cubs' shots, finishing with 10 saves,
including four in the third quarter.
"Robby played well," Naeve said. "He played a very good game.
Especially because we have three goalkeepers and this is the first time
we stayed with one starting goalie the whole game. I think it took the
pressure of him, because he played outstanding."
It's just another part of the preseason ploy: Try new things, test
different combinations, see who's best where.
Tuesday's experiment involved letting Low ride out the entire match in
the cage, while allowing La Canada's other goalkeepers -- namely junior
Chase McDay -- the opportunity to expand their respective games. Again,
it's a strategy that's likely to pay off in the long run. Low, for one,
likes the idea.
"(Playing the entire match in the cage) keeps me in rhythm," Low said.
"It's easier to be focused, but it's still a challenge to keep myself
looking, to keep myself working harder."
Ondrejcka scored four goals, while fellow junior Matt Yang added two.
Phil Webster contributed La Canada's other goal.