SOUTH PASADENA — All the Crescenta Valley High girls' water polo team did during the regular season was win.
It seemed to come second nature to the Falcons on Wednesday in the first game of their second season – the CIF Southern Section Division V playoffs.
An unstoppable array of scorers and an unrelenting defense carried third-seeded Crescenta Valley to a 19-6 win over Fontana in the first round at South Pasadena High, where the Falcons (30-0) got all they needed to hear from Coach Pete Loporchio in an early first-quarter timeout.
"After about the first two minutes I tried to get them to adjust in terms of intensity level and execution," said Loporchio, whose team will next meet Los Altos, an 18-10 winner over Riverside Notre Dame on Wednesday, in the quarterfinals on Saturday. "The farther you go into [playoffs] I think the intensity level increases and then the physicality starts to increase. We were trying to get them to be a little more assertive and they did a great job after that and got on a little bit of a roll there."
The Pacific League-champion Falcons started with a five-meter shot by Sabrina Hatzer at the 6:14 mark of the first quarter and were quickly off on a 5-0 run to begin the match.
Stefanie Loporchio followed Hatzer's five meter with a short-hook lob before Hatzer made it 3-0 on a breakaway off an assist from Elissa Arnold, who moments later stole the ball and started a quick counter that ended with a Hatzer assist to Loporchio for a 4-0 lead at the 4:00 mark. This was all before Fontana got a shot off, as the Falcons opened the game with seven steals in the first three minutes.
Hatzer fed Katie Benson for a goal inside at the 2:52 mark before Fontana got on the board with a five-meter shot by Salena Zapata to make it 5-1 with 1:04 left. Crescenta Valley ended the opening quarter with a Hatzer goal on a breakaway off a pass from goalkeeper Gabriel Isacson set up by a Shannon Hovanesian steal.
"We have to take it one game at a time, we have to focus on what we need to do and how we have to start out the game," said Crescenta Valley high-scorer Sabrina Hatzer (four goals). "We have to push the tempo a little bit and then make adjustments."
The Steelers (15-12), who placed third in the Citrus Valley League, kept the game from getting out of hand in the second quarter, limiting the Falcons to goals by Arnold and Hovanesian (two), while getting scores from Leslie Dove and Zapata for a 9-3 halftime score.
But Crescenta Valley blew the game open with seven unanswered third-quarter goals, including two straight from Hovanesian to open the run.
"We had good shot placement, passes, we were just on top of things," Hatzer said.
After Hatzer, the Falcons had two players with three goals in Arnold and Hovanesian and four with two goals in Taylor, Breanna Lawton, Nayiri Keshishian and Loporchio.
Crescenta Valley defeated Los Altos twice during the regular season and a third time will send the Falcons back to the semifinals for a second season in a row. Los Altos will host the match at a time to be determined after winning a coinflip.
"We were able to identify the weak-side pass and the old catch and shoot and things like that and not force too much and hold the ball too much," Coach Loporchio said. "We were trying to create some angle passes, trying to seal to the inside and they did a better job.
"If we're going to be successful from this point forward, we're going to have to be able to out-depth teams. I'm hoping that will be a little advantage for us over the remaining teams we will play [in the division]."