BURBANK — Heading into the Pacific League Girls' Water Polo Tournament, one of Crescenta Valley High girls' Coach Pete Loporchio's concerns was the prospect of meeting Pasadena in the finals.
Due to the league point system, that particular situation would mean that the Falcons had already clinched their second straight league title no matter the outcome of Thursday's final. And, with the CIF playoffs on the horizon, he certainly didn't want a letdown.
Well, a tough Pasadena squad was exactly the team Crescenta Valley found itself across the pool from on Thursday.
But the Falcons took the Bulldogs' best and stepped up to the challenge in a come-from-behind 9-6 win at Burbank High on the strength of a standout, five-goal effort from senior Kim Fraisse.
"They rose to the occasion," said Loporchio, whose team enters next week's CIF Southern Section Division V playoffs as a two-time reigning Pacific League champion with a 26-3 record and a perfect 8-0 league mark. "I think it's a credit to the seniors.
"Kim stepped up big time."
Pasadena (16-10, 5-3) jumped out to a 2-0 lead late in the fourth quarter before the Falcons responded with a four-goal run and then later put the match away with another four straight scores after the Bulldogs had drawn the match to 5-4 in the third period.
"We just definitely wanted to stay focused," said Fraisse of her team's approach to the match despite having already locked up the league crown outright. "We didn't want to come in cocky."
Fraisse scored a trio of goals to begin the fourth quarter as part of the aforementioned second 4-0 run and essentially iced the match. Her final score came on the third straight CV shot of a sequence in which she pounded home a second consecutive rebound attempt.
"[It was] almost like a slam dunk in the end," Loporchio said. "She was not to be deterred."
Senior Adrienne Ingalla scored the Falcons' initial tally with 1:05 left to cut the score to 2-1 before Fraisse scored on a man-advantage with 20 seconds left in the period.
Another man-advantage goal from Christine Cho off a Sabrina Hatzer pass gave the Falcons a lead they would never relinquish with 5:33 left. Hatzer also had two goals.
"I think that's been the trademark of this team, they don't panic," Loporchio said. "They keep plugging away."
The Falcons shut out the Bulldogs in the second period to post a 4-2 halftime advantage.
"They just played a great defensive game," Loporchio said.
A back-and-forth third quarter ended with a Hatzer tally that served as a preamble to Fraisse's tour de force in the final period. Fraisse's final goal gave the Falcons a 9-4 advantage with 3:13 left to play and enabled Crescenta Valley to run out the clock.
Moments after the match, Loporchio pumped both fists in the air and, rather than being pushed into the pool, willingly ran arm in arm in with his players. It was there, during a postgame, mid-pool celebration, that Loporchio gave his postgame speech about his Falcons, ranked third in their division, taking the next step in the postseason.
After surviving a 10-9 scare in its opener against Burbank on Tuesday and surviving league play without a loss for the second straight year despite sharing it with Glendale and Pasadena, who are both ranked in the top 10 in the division, Loporchio and Co. feel ready for the next week's next step.
"It gets us ready for the playoffs," Fraisse said. "It's competition."
Added Loporchio: "It's a tough league. To get through this league [as champions] is a credit to us."
In other action: In the day's third-place match between Glendale and Burbank, the Nitros prevailed, 10-7. Glendale (16-9, 6-2 in league) won the third-place match and tied for second with Pasadena overall with 10 league points.
Glendale was led by three goals from Desiree Garcia-Solano, while Kristina Terzyan, Alique Berberian and Milene Minassians had two each.