GLENDALE — Things have changed a bit since the last time the Crescenta Valley High girls’ water polo team began play in the CIF Southern Section Division IV playoffs.

A season ago, the Falcons were five-time reigning Pacific League champions.

This time around, Crescenta Valley is looking to put behind it a souring finish to its league season in the hopes of making a lengthy playoff run.

Indeed, the Falcons are preparing to make a fresh start in a second season, one that starts at 3:30 p.m. on Thursday against Nipomo, the Pac 7 League’s No. 2 team, at Pasadena City College, in the opening round of the playoffs, as released along with the rest of the divisional water polo pairings on Monday by the CIF offices.

“We’re kind of looking at it like it’s a four-game tournament,” said Crescenta Valley Coach Pete Loporchio, whose Falcons (17-9), took second in league, falling to Burbank, 7-5, in Thursday’s league championship. “League is over and we need to move on.”

The Falcons advanced to the quarterfinals last season, where they lost to Rio Mesa, 6-4.

Should Crescenta Valley advance to the quarters again, it could see Rio Mesa, once more. The Pacific View champion, and No. 2 seed, will host the winner of a wild-card match between St. Joseph and Temple City on Thursday.

But first, Crescenta Valley must get by a Nipomo squad that brings a 16-7 overall record to the pool, having gone 10-2 in Pac 7 play, with its only league losses coming against Arroyo Grande, the tournament’s top seed and the division’s defending champion.

“I think it’s an equitable matchup for us,” Loporchio said. “I think it’s a team that we can be successful against.”

Nipomo is led by leading scorer Heidi Link, who tallied a school-record seven goals in one period during a match this season against Pioneer Valley.

Despite Nipomo having opposition such as Arroyo Grande, Loporchio believes his team is battle-tested, as well, emerging as the division’s seventh seed from a Pacific League that was matched only by the Rio Hondo League in having three teams in the final CIF top-10 poll of the year, which was also released on Monday. Last year, Glendale also advanced to the quarterfinals, but CV is the only area water polo team to qualify for the playoffs this season.

Led by seniors Taylor Kuh and Olivia Trimis along with high-scoring sophomore Kim Fraisse, Crescenta Valley doesn’t look to change much from the defense-first approach that has led to success thus far.

“We’re just gonna work on exactly our system and what we do,” Loporchio said. “We’re gonna basically stay with our system and make some alterations based on our opponents.”

An added plus for the Falcons is health. Having battled through a recent flu bug that took the team hostage, Loporchio believes everybody is back to normal.

“I think at this point, we’re getting everybody back healthy,” Loporchio said.

And, while PCC isn’t exactly a home match, Loporchio’s still happy it’s Nipomo that will have to make the 360-mile roundtrip for the match.

Loporchio sees plenty of reasons for optimism, not the least of which being that his team has a clean slate and a wealth of opportunity ahead.

“Once you get to the tournament,” he said, “anything can happen.”

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