GLENDALE — Although the Crescenta Valley High girls' water polo team was fortunate enough to land in the opposite bracket as that of the CIF Southern Section Division V No. 1 seed, the second-seeded Temescal Canyon team the Falcons (27-3) will face in today's semifinal match at 6 p.m. at Mount San Antonio College could easily have been the top seed itself if not for one overtime loss during the regular season.
The Titans (24-5), who were moved down from Division III this year, held down the No. 1 spot in Division V in the weekly CIF rankings for more than half of the season before falling to Redlands East Valley, 9-8, in tournament play on Jan. 13. Redlands East Valley (26-3), which plays third-seeded Bonita (22-8) at 7: 30 p.m. today at Mt. SAC, leapfrogged Temescal Canyon as a result and went into the playoffs as the No. 1 seed.
"They're a good team with a contrasting style from us in that I think they play a lot more assertive style," Crescenta Valley Coach Pete Loporchio said of the Sunbelt League-champion Titans. "They play an assertive, counter-attack, push-the-tempo-of-the-game style with two very good two-meter players."
Temescal Canyon's high-scoring offense is led by Sammie Murphy and Lauren Thatcher. After missing more than three weeks of the regular season with a concussion before her recent return made an already surging Titans squad even more formidable, Thatcher led the Titans with 10 goals in a 20-5 first-round win over Burbank on Feb. 16. Temescal Canyon's defense locked down Los Altos for an 8-6 win in the quarters on Friday.
The Pacific League-champion Falcons are coming off a strong defensive performance, as well, outlasting Walnut, 8-5, on Friday in the quarterfinals.
"Two things have really been our focus," said Loporchio, whose team was eliminated in the quarterfinals the past five seasons. "Playing quality transition defense and we have to stop their counter-attack, that's one concern of mine, and the other concern is to take away their play at two meters.
"It might involve switching up some different zones, maybe going man-to-man or a combination of man-to-man. It'll depend on how it plays out, and the girls are cerebral enough where they can make those adjustments once the game starts, but we're going to have to read how effective their two-meter players are."
Crescenta Valley has shown offensive balance, as well. Kim Fraisse scored four goals to pace the Falcons on Friday after Adrienne Ingalla and Christine Cho stepped up with four goals apiece in a 16-6 win over Yucaipa Feb. 16.
Ingalla said the Falcons should expect a physical match.
"We know they're a really aggressive team and they're going to hold a lot," she said. "Our challenge will be showing that to the refs and playing through the frustration of being held."
The Division V championship match will be held at 11:40 a.m. Saturday at William Woollett, Jr. Aquatic Center.
"We are really excited, we want to go to finals so badly," Ingalla said. "We've earned our spot here."