PASADENA — Stefanie Loporchio was able to keep things from going from bad to worse for the Crescenta Valley High girls' water polo team in a CIF Southern Section Division V showdown against Los Altos Tuesday.
Loporchio was as clutch as can be Tuesday as both of her goals broke late ties and the final one proved to be the game-winner in a narrow 8-7 victory over the Conquerors at Pasadena City College.
"It was our biggest preseason game," Loporchio said. "It's a big game in terms of where they're going to seed us [in playoffs]. It really determines the rest of our CIF journey."
Down, 6-4, with 4:08 remaining in the quarter, Los Altos' Stephanie Contreras and Emily Mena scored back-to-back goals to tie the game at 6 with 2:39 left in the third. It looked like the Conquerors were putting the finishing touches on a comeback after they'd managed to climb all the way back from a 4-0 first-quarter deficit.
"We had a couple of mini lapses on defense, which got them back in the game," Crescenta Valley Coach Pete Loporchio said. "Once they got back in the game they started building some momentum and just started charging back."
Things didn't look good for the third-ranked Falcons when No. 5 Los Altos knotted the game late. CV had not only squandered its lead but lost its leading goal scorer, Sabrina Hatzer, when she fouled out in the middle of the third quarter.
"I felt really disappointed [after fouling out]," Hatzer said, "but I knew our team was strong enough to carry it out. I had complete faith in them."
Loporchio gave credence to that faith and swung momentum back into CV's corner when she scored with 32 seconds left in the third to give the Falcons (14-0) a 7-6 lead heading into the final quarter. A Contreras goal with 5:06 remaining in the fourth tied the contest back up at 7.
Loporchio came up big again, finding the cage for what turned out to be the final goal of the game with 3:54 remaining. The Falcons were able to lock down on defense after that and hold on to the one-goal victory to Loporchio's surprise.
"I definitely didn't think that was going to be the last goal," Stefanie Loporchio said. "I thought for sure that it was going to tie up again. We played really good defense in the end. I am so proud of our defense."
As always, Crescenta Valley goalie Gabriel Isaacson was key to the Falcons' defense. She finished the game with 12 saves, including five in the final quarter.
Hatzer helped CV build its 4-0 lead with a game-high four goals, three in the first quarter and another in the third. The Falcons were kept out of the cage for the entire second quarter, as Catherine Tuning cut the lead to 4-2 with two Conquerors goals in the second.
Hatzer's goal 45 seconds into the third pushed Crescenta Valley's lead to 5-2. Los Altos cut the lead to one with two straight goals — one from Contreras and another from Eunice Kim. The Falcons' Shannon Hovanesian (two goals) pushed the lead back to 6-4 with a goal with 4:08 left in the third before the late Los Altos push and Loporchio heroics.
"I am so proud of my team," Hatzer said. "We are stronger, faster and better than last year. No matter what, we can push through. No matter who is in, we can stay strong and power through anything."