To hear Sabrina Hatzer talk about her exploits and achievements in the pool during a stellar senior season, you wouldn't really come away thinking it was all that stellar.
But for the seemingly always reserved and soft-spoken Crescenta Valley High girls' water polo player and swimmer, 2011-12 was quite phenomenal indeed. So phenomenal, in fact, that she was recently voted the 2011-12 Glendale News-Press Girls' Athlete of the Year.
Having started her days as a water polo player for the first time as a freshman at CV with no knowledge of the game, she morphed quite quickly into the 2011-12 All-Area Girls' Water Polo Player of the Year. On a team that had lost 12 seniors, Hatzer returned with playing experience, but jumped into a go-to role during a season for the ages in which Crescenta Valley duplicated its Pacific League title success from a year prior along with an ascent to the CIF Southern Section Division V semifinals, but did so by winning its first 31 games, with its undefeated season coming to a close via a 9-7 loss to Temescal Canyon.
Hatzer, the Pacific League's Player of the Year and an All-CIF standout, scored a team-high 106 goals — good enough for the fourth-highest single-season total in program history. In addition she added 42 assists and 61 steals for a Falcons squad defined by defense and team play that rattled off nailbiting upsets of the likes of Harvard-Westlake and La Serna in nonleague play before a dramatic quarterfinal, overtime win over Los Altos in the playoffs.
It was a season to remember not just for the Falcons, but for Hatzer, who just the season prior had shined coming off the bench for the Falcons.
And while she began her Falcons days as a water polo player simply because trying something new interested her, her days as a competitive swimmer were just as unlikely, as she took the sport up simply to supplement water polo.
But when all was said and done, she had played a focal role in the Falcons' swimming team winning its fifth straight team title, while she was part of league title-winning swims in both the 200-yard medley relay and 200-freestyle relay. Hatzer would swim on both relays, as well as in the 100 breaststroke, at the CIF finals.
Four total Pacific League titles, swimming in three CIF finals races and leading her team to a CIF semifinal in water polo. Not a bad year, indeed.
Of course, you wouldn't hear it from the always-humble Hatzer, whose success certainly didn't come from word of mouth, but plain-and-simple success in the pool.
Glendale News-Press Sports Editor Grant Gordon recently sat down with Hatzer to discuss her silently successful tenure in the traditionally terrific CV waters. Here are excerpts from that interview.
Grant Gordon: Do you remember how old you were when you first swam? When did you first start swimming?
Sabrina Hatzer: The first time I ever swam in a pool ... I was real young, pretty young. My grandma taught me how to swim.
GG: Is it something that you were good at or that you liked?
SH: It was something I enjoyed over the summer, definitely
GG: When you were growing up, did you play other sports?
SH: I played basketball, T-ball. ... I kinda played tennis for a little bit. Golf — once.
GG: Once? (laughing).
SH: That was it (laughing).
GG: In terms of competitively, though, it was just basketball, T-ball and tennis?
GG: That was it, nothing stuck that you really liked?
SH: I liked playing basketball a lot. I was actually going to do that my freshman year [at Crescenta Valley], but I had no idea what water polo was, so I wanted to try it.
GG: So, going into high school had you even heard of water polo or seen it played?
SH: No, I really hadn't.
GG: What drew you to it, exactly, how did it all happen?
SH: I liked the water, I liked being in a pool. It was pretty competitive, I liked that, definitely. There was something about it, I'd never heard about it before.
GG: So did you just go try out for it?
SH: Yeah. And it just stuck.
GG: Was it tough at first, cause it's kind of a niche sport where there's a lot of club players, this and that, so, in terms of your experience level were you kind of overmatched at first or is it something you got pretty easy?
SH: I kind of watched other people, I learned by watching. It was kind of overwhelming at first. Especially with all these people who had played for years.
GG: Did you start swimming your freshman year, too?
GG: Did they just go one and the same?
GG: So you did start out kind of quickly [in water polo], jumping up to JV as a freshman. Is it something that seemed to fit with you, did you pick it up kind of quickly?
SH: Yeah, once I learn something I can get it pretty quickly, it's just something I can do. As long as I put my mind on it, and that's what I did.
GG: Now, going into this year, a lot was made about who all left. You guys heard plenty about it from guys like us, but yet I still sensed there was a lot of confidence to the team. Was that because of the summer, because I know you guys played a heckuva lot? What was the reason behind the team's confidence?
SH: I think it was definitely over the summer, because we worked together more, we got a lot more reps. So our chemistry built and we got to know how we played together more, so that kind of brought us into the year.
GG: You guys had a lot of very close, close games: Harvard-Westlake, La Serna, Los Altos. Was it a little bit of luck, a lot of skill, being able to be cool under pressure, can you explain how you guys were always able to come out on top?
SH: Maybe, luck, but it's definitely that we don't panic under pressure. That's definitely a big one, cause our coach always knew what to do. He's very wise about that. He's very smart. So we just kind of took his vibe and didn't panic at all.
GG: I've interviewed you quite a few times, you seem pretty reserved and quiet. Are you like this around your teammates during a game or do you get a little louder?
SH: During a game I get really into the game. Sometimes I won't focus on what anyone else is talking about, I'll just focus on what's going on and what's happening.
GG: As the year went on and on, when you're undefeated, obviously, people take notice. Did that add more and more pressure as the year went on?
SH: Yeah, it puts more pressure on you, especially in the playoffs.
GG: Looking back on the season, how special was it, how much did you guys enjoy it?
SH: This season was one of my favorite seasons, it was a great season. Everyone, we were so close this year, so much chemistry. We did so many things together. It's kind of hard, looking back on it. I can't believe it's over.
GG: Kind of bittersweet?
SH: Yeah, definitely, we did so well together.
GG: Granted, like I said, you guys were fairly confident going into the season, but were you guys even scratching your heads, thinking, 'Wow, we're really doing well?'
SH: We talk about it sometimes, like, wow. We overcame some great teams, it's crazy, we won three tournaments, so that was really surprising. I couldn't believe it. As a team, we were playing so well together.
GG: What's it like? Is it tough to transition from water polo to swimming. They're clearly very different and it's one right to another, there's not really a lot of rest.
SH: Kind of getting back into it, the first couple of meets are always the hardest ones. It's difficult transitioning from just playing water polo ... to just straight swimming.
GG: Looking back, CV girls' water polo has a very good tradition, you're now a big part of that, same with swimming. Is there a lot made at CV about the aquatics program? Is there a tradition there, is that something you're made aware of?
SH: Yeah, we know the big tradition that the aquatics program has there. Actually, it's a really good program, it really is. We keep the tradition going by doing our best and [winning] league titles.
GG: Did you originally get into swimming to help out with water polo?
SH: Yeah, to keep my endurance up and I wanted to try and get faster.
GG: We're you surprised at your success, you did pretty well, you went to CIF in three different events?
SH: It's kinda surprising. I had a goal for each event. But I didn't think I'd get to it. My goal was to make times, but I didn't think I'd do better than my goal.
GG: So next for you, is you're gonna go play for [former Crescenta Valley] Coach [Pete] Loporchio again at L.A. Valley College. Was that a surprise to you that he was going there? Is that something you're looking forward to?
SH: I'm looking forward to it, another two years with him. He's a really good coach, I'm glad he's going there.
GG: Is that something that you feel helped you along, having the right coach for you and being able to work in his system?
SB: I think that was one of the biggest things. He definitely helped me progress as a player and a person.
GG: Last question, looking back on your four-year high school career in both sports, what was your greatest memory?
SH: My greatest memory? Of course it's this year, it definitely is, it's one of the best years we've had together as a team, it sums up my high school career.