With the loss of All-Area Girls’ Water Polo Player of the Year Sabrina Hatzer, as well as coach Pete Loporchio, who navigated the Crescenta Valley High girls’ water polo team to consecutive CIF semifinal runs and undefeated Pacific League campaigns, one might surmise the Falcons’ fortunes this season are a bit up in the air.
But under new coach Brent Danna with a host of experienced returners, the Falcons are seen as a prohibitive favorite in the Pacific League by their counterparts and are ranked fifth in CIF Southern Section Division V.
“It’s not wide open at all,” said Glendale Coach Forest Holbrook of the Pacific League, which has been won three consecutive seasons by the Falcons. “They’ve got an amazing coach.
“I think Crescenta Valley’s gonna be a real powerhouse.”
While the Falcons made an amazing run to the semifinals last year that saw them reel off 31 straight wins to start the season, Glendale was the only other local to make the playoffs and lost in the opening round.
The Nitros are hoping to get back to the CIF dance, while Hoover, Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy and Flintridge Prep are all seemingly still putting their respective programs’ foundations in place.
The Falcons are expected to boast the return of standout goaltender Gabriel Isacson, fellow standouts Shannon Hovanesian and Breanna Lawton and experienced juniors Katie Benson and Elissa Arnold.
Glendale, meanwhile, is hoping to contend with the predicted likes of Burroughs and Pasadena for a spot in the top three of the league.
The Nitros lost a bunch of experience from last season’s fourth-place squad that went to the postseason, but Holbrook expects big things from seniors Biyouregh Boghozian and Maddie Corpus.
“The girls are looking good,” said Holbrook, whose team lost to eventual champion Temescal Canyon, which also eliminated Crescenta Valley, in the first round of the playoffs. “They’ve put in a lot of work.”
With his girls absent of a club option in most cases, Holbrook made the decision to give them full practices in the fall after school, with his boys’ team usually practicing after the girls. And now, after coaching the Nitros’ boys’ team to a CIF Division V final run, the girls are now raring to go, though decisions on starters are still yet to be made for the most part.
Hoover, under coach Kevin Witt, is coming off a one-win season and is still searching for numbers.
“We still have the same number of new players as last year. Again we’re a very young team,” Witt said. “I’m hoping we learn and get better every game.”
Hoping for key contributions from senior utility Lianna Khachikyan and senior driver Se-Yeon Kim, Witt has tempered any goals in terms of amount of wins.
“I want to go out there and win every game, but at some point I have to realize that’s not going to happen,” Witt said. “So, we have to focus on getting better so we have goals at the end of the season rather than the beginning.”
For the third time in as many seasons, Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy will have a different coach.
Carlos Ponce, who formerly coached at Burroughs and last coached in 2009, has taken the Tologs’ helm.
“Being away from the game a bit, it’s been a transition for myself,” Ponce said. “It’s a long process, but these girls are excited for something new.”
Having won just one game in the arduous Mission League a season ago, Ponce believes this is a rebuilding year, but still thinks the Tologs can fight for third place and a playoff spot.
“The third spot, there’s always a fight for it,” Ponce said. “We’re not gonna give up on that.”
Senior Hannah Walleck will be the focal point for the team.
“She’s a very notable player,” Ponce said. “I’ve tried to surround her with the right girls.”
That would include junior goalie Elizabeth Hinkley and senior drivers Anna Porter and Kelsey Gorman.
Under second-year coach Ryan Goto, the Rebels have modest hopes of staying competitive with the season goal of building for the future.
“We lost a really big chunk of our starting lineup,” said Goto, who said he has just three returning starters and only four seniors. “We’re definitely a smaller squad than we were last year.
“We’re really focused on building the team. We just hope to give everybody a good game.”
Savannah Hart, a senior, and Erin Dennis, a junior, look to lead the team, while two freshmen and two sophomores look to provide for the future.
Said Goto: “We have potential to really learn the game and set a strong foundation for seasons to come.”