Fraisse's force felt in biggest games

Kim Fraisse's final high school water polo match ended in a loss for her Crescenta Valley High Falcons, but it illustrated as clearly as any in her stellar career just what made her a consummate winner in three years as a varsity standout.

With 278 goals over that span, which included a 74-19 record for the Falcons with two league titles and three trips to the CIF Southern Section quarterfinals or better, Fraisse had already established herself as a player who could take over the biggest games and put the team on her back. In a valiantly played 10-9 loss to No. 2 seed Temsecal Canyon in the CIF Division V semifinals on Feb. 23, she solidified that legacy.

"I used a couple of terms to describe her at our banquet — 'the presence,' or the 'difference maker," Falcons Coach Pete Loporchio says. "When the chips are down in the higher intensity games, she made a huge difference. There was a presence about her when she was in a game and she could literally take over a game. I think there are players who can do that at certain levels. I'm not sure there were many in our division that could do it at the level she did it, whether it was league finals or CIF semifinals or quarterfinals."

In the semifinals, Fraisse led a Falcons surge that turned what was in danger of becoming a humbling flameout into a near come-from-behind upset, scoring five of her six goals in the second half to help Crescenta Valley close a five-goal deficit down to one against a dynamic defensive squad in the waning moments. It was one transcendent moment of dominance that encapsulated a career defined by rising to the occasion, whether it was in Pacific League title games, tournament championships or the CIF playoffs.

"I felt like I always push as hard as I can, but then, when the time comes, it's kind of like an adrenaline rush where I just want to do that much better," said Fraisse, who scored 71 goals this season along with 25 assists and 45 steals.

This season, Fraisse led the way to a 28-4 season, which tied for the highest win total in program history, an undefeated Pacific League title and the threshold of a CIF championship game.

"It was that she was all-around good at defense, an incredible offensive shooter and she was just good at being optimistic and keeping our team together," Falcons senior driver Christine Cho says when asked to describe Fraisse's role on the team.

Loporchio, Cho and those in the Falcons' program weren't the only ones to appreciate Fraisse's value. Her outstanding season resulted in All-Pacific League and All-CIF Division V first-team selections and, finally, being voted All-Area Girls' Water Polo Player of the Year by the sportswriters and editors of the Glendale News-Press, Burbank Leader and La Cañada Valley Sun for the second year in a row.

"I definitely think we accomplished a lot," Fraisse says looking back on her senior season. "The last couple years, quarterfinals was where we stopped, but then this year we got to the semifinals. And this year I feel like our team had a lot of depth. Everyone on this team did so well offensively, we had so many different players to take [an offensive] role."

Fraisse missed some time early in the season with a shoulder injury, but made a huge impact upon her return. On Dec. 15, she scored a go-ahead goal with 44 seconds left to lift the Falcons to a 9-8 win over Division III-ranked nonleague nemesis South Pasadena that ran the team's record to 8-0.

With a key assist late in the league opener against Pasadena and a goal to spark the Falcons' decisive fourth-quarter rally in a win over Glendale, Fraisse was critical to the Falcons defending their league title and she scored five goals in a 9-6 win over the Bulldogs in the championship game of the league finals.

"I saw it time and time again where we were in crucial games and she stepped up her game," Loporchio said.

Once the CIF playoffs began, Fraisse stepped up further, scoring four goals in an 8-5 quarterfinal win over Walnut before leading an impassioned comeback against Temescal Canyon at Mount San Antonio College.

"Our team, everyone pushed up a lot during the third and fourth quarter," says Fraisse, whose two quick goals midway through the third quarter with her team down five began to turn the tide. "Even though we lost, I felt like that was just a great game for us.

"I was thinking once we started getting more goals back I felt like we could still go hard and do what we came out there to do."

The rest of the Falcons seemed to feed off Fraisse's intensity, stepping up their defense to hold Temescal Canyon to two fourth-quarter goals and getting clutch goals from Cho and Sabrina Hatzer.

"She was definitely a big factor [in that comeback]," Cho says. "She basically made most of the goals, but I think it was because of that intensity that she gains when the game is very close.

"I think there's a lot of pressure on her as a shooter in tough games. She has this trigger when she is in a really tight, stressful situation that she's very good at stepping up to the plate and making those goals."

As evidenced by many of her performances this season, Fraisse knew when to take over a game, but she also displayed a keen sense of when not to take one over, which likely played a large role in the Falcons becoming one of the most balanced teams in the division.

Fraisse scored 58 fewer goals this season than she did in her junior season, during which she set a school single-season record, and while the games she missed while injured surely contributed to the drop off, Fraisse's willingness to defer can't be overlooked either.

"She's not the kind of person who would say, 'Coach I want to score 10 goals,'" says Loporchio, whose team sported nine players with 20 or more goals by season's end. "If you look at the league stats, the games against Arcadia and Hoover, she had less than three goals because she would defer to somebody else to score or we played her half the game.

"But if you look at the league finals and the big games we had to win, that's when she did it. She did what she had to do when she had to do it."

Fraisse, who is looking to continue her water polo career in college at either San Diego State or Cal State Northridge, said sharing the ball, as well as the glory of a winning season, with her teammates made it all the more enjoyable.

"I had fun throughout all my seasons, but this year it was great to see everyone doing so well," Fraisse says. "Everyone improved so much and stepped it up so much this season. It was really fun."

"[My favorite moments were] just having the opportunity to work with [my teammates and coaches] and also meeting and getting so close with everyone was the most fun I had with the program."

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