Falcons net improbable win

WHITTIER — Moments after the Crescenta Valley High girls' water polo team captured its most improbable win of the season, Coach Pete Loporchio was flabbergasted.

Loporchio and the Falcons were on the cusp of absorbing their first loss of the season Thursday during a nonleague road match against La Serna. Down two goals in the closing seconds of regulation with La Serna owning possession of the ball, it all seemed academic.

Then the Falcons found a way to turn around their fortunes.

Crescenta Valley scored two goals late in the fourth quarter and then dominated the majority of the two overtime sessions to net a 13-12 win.

"We got behind, but we didn't panic," said Loporchio, whose team improved to 27-0 and is tied for No. 3 in the latest CIF Southern Section Division V rankings with Redlands East Valley. "You look to find a way to win and they did."

Crescenta Valley trailed, 10-8, before the breaks turned in its favor. La Serna (19-9) was called for a pair of ejections in the final 30 seconds, leading to the Falcons capitalizing on both man-advantage opportunities.

Katie Benson scored to bring the Falcons to within 10-9 with 19 seconds left. La Serna's Gabby Pierandozzi was then ejected for grabbing a Crescenta Valley player's suit, creating a Lancers turnover with four seconds left. Falcon Stefanie Loporchio tossed a quick pass to Sabrina Hatzer, who beat La Serna goalkeeper Jacqui Verdugo as the horn sounded.

"It was definitely intense in those last few seconds," said Hatzer, who finished with a team-high five goals. "We had to rush it by making a quick pass and then the shot.

"I just had fast reflexes. I'm in disbelief. It's our biggest win of the season and La Serna is a great team."

Hatzer and the Falcons seized the momentum heading into the pair of three-minute overtime sessions.

After Shannon Hovanesian gave the Falcons an 11-10 lead 47 seconds into the first overtime, Hatzer then scored twice in a 22-second span to extend the advantage to 13-10.

La Serna, ranked fifth in Division III, cut the deficit to 13-11 on a man-advantage goal by Pierandozzi with 53 seconds left in the first overtime before teammate Mary Lou Rodriguez closed out the scoring with 1:23 remaining in the second overtime.

Crescenta Valley still had work to do.

Crescenta Valley goalkeeper Gabriel Isacson, who finished with 12 saves, threw an errant pass out of bounds with 13 seconds left. La Serna looked to knot the match, but Pierandozzi's shot was blocked by Loporchio with two seconds left.

"I just stuck my hands up and was able to block it," Loporchio said. "I had to protect Gabriel and it's an amazing win.

"Everything just seemed to happen so fast late in the fourth quarter and then everything started to click."

Hovanesian collected three goals for the Falcons, who got two from Nayiri Kechichian and one apiece from Loporchio, Elissa Arnold and Katie Benson.

Monique Dorado paced the Lancers with a team-best four goals.

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