Leading a Division I destiny

The top high school coaches from the 2010-11 season were selected by the sportswriters of the Glendale News-Press.

1 Frank Pace and Kathy Desmond, Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy soccer: As longtime co-coaches of the highly regarded Tologs team, Pace and Desmond's considerable credentials prior to the 2010-11 campaign already included Mission League and CIF regional titles.

A CIF Southern Section Division I championship — the first for any team in the San Gabriel Valley or area history — was the only thing missing from the veteran duo's lustrous resume until Pace and Desmond were able to get the Tologs, who were Division II semifinalists the previous season, over the hump with a thrilling CIF Division I run, culminating in a 1-0 win over San Clemente in the championship game at Mission Viejo High on March 4.

"When we were doing it, we were literally into that one practice, one-game-at-a-time mode," Pace said of the team's run that also included a 1-0 overtime win over host Esperanza in the semifinals on March 1. "Time has really given me a great respect for what it is we accomplished."

With senior leaders Alyssa Conti and Natalie Zeenni entrenched in the captains' roles and an experienced junior core, the Tologs and their coaches had been through the wringer before and rallied to each other's cause time and time again in the face of adversity this year.

"To play for them this year, it was good," junior forward Breanna Koemans said. "The junior class, my class, was with them for three years. By the third year, we kind of got used to them and they got used to us, so it was really easy to be coached by them. We knew what they wanted and what they expected from us and it made it really easy and really fun and I think that's why we had so much success this year."

Conti, a senior midfielder, struggled early in the match against Esperanza, but became the hero with a game-winning goal after Pace and Desmond decided to put her back in the game at the start of overtime.

"They look out for us, whether we're in school or on the field, no matter what," Conti said. "They want the best for us and I think the confidence they have in us really radiates through us and that gives us the power and the confidence in ourselves to keep going."

With playoff experience and hunger for a championship, the Tologs' roster was self-motivated, but also strong-willed and confident in its abilities, making coaching a challenge at times.

"Frank and I have done this long enough [to know that] every team is not the same," said Desmond, who also helped guide the team to a second straight league title and a runner-up finish in the CIF Southern California Division III Regional championships. "I said early on to Frank this is the kind of team we're going to have to see where they want to go with it. We can't run a boot camp and expect them to respond to that. We were just going to have to feel our way through the season. These were definitely strong-willed girls and that's what helped them win, but it also makes them kind of complicated to coach.

"You have to just play it by ear with them and we made a conscious decision to do that and it worked out for us."

2 Pete Loporchio, Crescenta Valley girls' water polo and girls' swimming: The veteran coach got the best out of his teams while establishing dominance in the Pacific League and throughout CIF.

In the fall, the water polo team won the Pacific League championship before marching to the CIF Southern Section Division V semifinals. It marked the first time since 2002 that the Falcons reached the semifinals, and they did so with a balanced scoring attack and a cast of experienced players. Crescenta Valley finished 28-4 and 8-0 in league en route to winning a second league championship in a row. Crescenta Valley fell, 10-9, to second-seeded and eventual-champion Temescal Canyon in a semifinal match after posting playoff wins against Yucaipa and Walnut.

In all, five Falcons garnered All-CIF accolades, led by first-team selections Kim Fraisse and Adrienne Ingalla. Christine Cho was a second-team pick and juniors Sabrina Hatzer and Breeana Lawton were third-team picks.

In the spring, Loporchio and co-Coach Peter Kim got the most out of the Crescenta Valley's swim team, which won a league championship with an experienced cast. The Falcons once again displayed their depth and versatility in netting 538 points despite claiming just two first-place finishes on the day. It marked the fourth straight league championship for the Falcons.

The Falcons girls got first-place finishes from freshman Iva Icheva in the 50-yard freestyle in 24.85 seconds and Ingalla, a senior, in the 100 breaststroke in 1:11.63.

Loporchio was named All-Area Girls' Water Polo Coach of the Year and All-Area Girls' Swimming co-Coach of the Year with Kim.

3 Kiel McClung, Crescenta Valley boys' soccer: After coming on board last season, McClung wasted no time reshaping the foundation and establishing a winning tone after the Falcons regularly found themselves near the bottom of the Pacific League.

McClung, the All-Area Boys' Soccer Coach of the Year, guided the Falcons to their first league title last season and followed that up this season with a repeat performance. In addition, Crescenta Valley went 15-2-5, 11-0-3 in league, and marched to the CIF Southern Section Division IV quarterfinals. The Falcons, who went undefeated in league for the first time in the program's history, turned back Diamond Bar and North Torrance before losing to El Rancho in the program's first-ever quarterfinal appearance.

Pavle Atanackovic was named the league's most valuable player and finished with a team-high 33 goals and 70 points. Atanackovic, Alex Berger and Salar Hajimirsadeghi became the first players in the program's history to pick up All-CIF honors.

4 Garrett Ohara, Flintridge Prep boys' basketball: With his calm demeanor, Ohara patrolled the sideline and watched the program enjoy its finest moment as it won its first CIF championship. Flintridge Prep posted a 47-44 win against Muir in the CIF Southern Section Division V-AA championship at Mater Dei High. Ohara's team went 24-7 and 7-1 in the league for a share of the Prep League championship.

As the top seed in the playoffs, the Rebels surged. They picked up wins against St. Paul, Whitney, Blair, Mission Prep and Muir. Ohara got the most out of his players, including Harvard University-bound Kenyatta Smith, who averaged 19.6 points, 14.8 rebounds and 4.8 blocked shots per game. Also taking their games to new heights were forward Jared Norsworthy and guard Kory Hamane.

After winning the CIF title, the Rebels participated in the CIF State Division V playoffs, winning their opener before falling in the second round to St. Bernard.

Ohara was named the All-CIF Division V-AA Coach of the Year.

5 Jan Sakonju, Crescenta Valley boys' water polo and boys' swimming: Sakonju, who was named the News-Press Coach of the Year in 2010, once again showed he could handle guiding two top-flight programs.

In water polo, Crescenta Valley went 25-5 and 8-0 in league for first place. It then won the league's tournament before qualifying for the CIF Southern Section Division V playoffs. In the playoffs, the Falcons posted victories against Los Altos and Palm Springs before falling to rival Pasadena Poly, 6-2, in a semifinal match.

Sakonju was named the All-Area Boys' Swimming Coach of the Year after leading the Falcons to their 19 consecutive Pacific League championship and a third-place finish at the CIF Southern Section Division V Swimming and Diving Championships at Belmont Plaza pool in Long Beach. Sakonju had a star-studded cast that included Young Tae Seo, Harrison Thai, Louis Wojciechowski and Andrew De Jong.

Also receiving votes: Julie Jaime, Flintridge Prep softball; Glen Appels, St. Francis soccer; Bob Davidson, Glendale boys' and girls' tennis.

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