GLENDALE — There are quite a few changes from last season, as it relates to the area's girls' swimming scene.
Two of the area's finest individual talents, Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy's Andrea Kropp and Glendale's Katalina Sher, are no longer around and Crescenta Valley and Flintridge Prep have gone in new directions with coaching.
With a senior-heavy squad, Sacred Heart enjoyed the most success of the bunch last season, but just because Kropp, the reigning News-Press Female Athlete of the Year, is winning titles at Princeton now, Tologs Coach Steve Bergen sees no reason why his team can't continue to win titles in the prestigious Mission League.
"Andrea certainly was the face of the program last year, but she was also part of a class that graduated seven girls last year that, as a group, won three league championships in four years," Bergen said of a class that also included Madeline Talt, Briana Swinney and Christina Brandt. "It's certainly a lot to replace them, but the best thing about us is that over the years we have been able to rebuild.
"We're significantly younger than we were last year. …Depth is even better this year than it was last year for us."
Sacred Heart returns only two seniors, but Bergen will look to find his team's star power in the underclass. Freshman Katie Altmayer is already garnering hype as the next phenom to possibly carry on Kropp's tradition.
"[Altmayer] will break many school records in our freestyle events before she's done," Bergen said. "She'll probably have all four freestyle school records before she graduates.
"She's not quite Andrea-good right now, but she will be by the time she's a year in. We've never really had a freestyler like her. Our freestyle relay is going to be much better this year because of Katie."
A pair of returning sophomores, backstroker Meg Ryan and breaststroker Emily Balog, will also be key to getting the Tologs' relays back to the CIF Southern Section Division I finals and scoring points in league meets.
"They were on our medley relay team that went to the Masters Meet last year, but they were only freshmen," said Bergen, who also returns All-American diver Emily Boyd. "We're hoping they learned from [last year's seniors] and they begin to take the leadership position this year."
The Tologs shared the league title with Harvard-Westlake last season and this year's league chase figures to be open, as seven of the eight individual league titlists last year were seniors.
"The league as a whole gets very much younger this year," Bergen said. "I don't know what the other teams have coming in as far as freshmen, but I do know that we did a very good job replacing that class of 2010.
"I'll take our team against what people are bringing back, I'll say that for sure."
Last year, Crescenta Valley won its third straight Pacific League crown under Coach Robert Miller, who will hand the reins to co-coaches Pete Loporchio and Peter Kim this season.
Loporchio and Kim have a plethora of experience between them, as Kim led the Falcons' girls' swimming program to seven league titles in a row and a 2001 CIF title during his previous stint from 1997-2004, while Loporchio's exhaustive contributions over decades in the Crescenta Valley aquatics program includes three CIF titles in boys' swimming.
Between some established returners and a few intriguing newcomers, the Falcons have a good amount of experience and talent in the pool, as well, as they look to stay atop league and build a contingent for the Division II meet.
"I believe we have a very talented and deep team, hoping to once again contend for a league championship," said Loporchio, who also just coached the Falcons girls' water polo team to the Division V semifinals this season. "Depth will be our strength with a great blend of returning swimmers, members of the water polo team and several freshmen."
Senior Adrienne Ingalla and sophomore Robin Yi are returning CIF qualifiers and freshman Iva Icheva leads an incoming group that includes water polo player Shannon Hovanesian.
Glendale and Hoover also compete in the Pacific League, although the Nitros and Tornadoes are in more of a building stage than the stocked Falcons.
The loss of Sher will surely be felt at Glendale, as the standout freestyler was a multiple league titlist and a veteran of numerous CIF finals and Masters meets.
"With the senior class we lost last year, we lost a few pretty key swimmers for our team," Glendale Coach Forest Holbrook said. "But we're going to have a very solid team. The kids are looking a lot better than they were last year at this time, so we're very optimistic about how the season is going to turn out for us."
Sophomores Biyouregh Boghozian and Maddie Corpuz will be the top swimmers on a youthful Nitros team.
"We've got a younger team with two of our top three swimmers being sophomores," said Holbrook, who plans to measure his team's growth by CIF qualifications rather than league wins.
Holbrook has identified trying to qualify a relay for CIF as a season goal, as well as getting as many individual swimmers to CIF as possible.
Hoover also has a young team, expected to be led by juniors Pamela Minasian and Preni Movsefian and sophomores Janelle Gutierrez and Liana Khachikyan.
"We have few swimmers that could really surprise us this year," Tornadoes Coach Ara Oganesyan said. "We had an amazing group of freshmen last year and we've got another good batch of freshmen this year. We're really excited about it."
Flintridge Prep welcomes new co-coaches Riley Marnesh and Ryan Gatto, who will succeed Alex Supple in an attempt to guide the Rebels to a successful Prep League campaign.
With a couple of upperclassmen on board to provide leadership, including senior Evie Bateman and junior Suzanna Tan, Prep will also rely on a core of underclassmen led by freshman Jennifer Langen.