Crescenta Valley girls' water polo finally gets its plaque

IRVINE — Prior to this week, it could have been argued that despite all the success generated by the Crescenta Valley High girls’ water polo team, fairly or unfairly, the Falcons may have most been known as the program that couldn’t finish.

After all, four consecutive Pacific League titles combined with several 20-plus win seasons translated into area domination for sure, but also failed to produce one trip to the CIF Southern Section finals.

Those thoughts that dominated a week’s worth of emotion appeared to be washed away after the top-seeded Falcons’ 10-5 victory versus second-seeded Riverside Poly in Saturday’s CIF Southern Section Division V championship at Irvine’s William Woollett Jr. Aquatic Center.

“It’s absolutely phenomenal. You know, we went through so much to get to this point,” said Falcons senior driver Katie Benson, who finished with three goals. “Our hard worked paid off.

“To be the first team in Crescenta Valley history, to be the first girls’ team to win is awesome. We wanted to leave a legacy of winning.”

Benson was one of six seniors on the Falcons, some of whom shared in the heartbreak of the team’s recent semifinals defeats to Temescal Canyon in 2011 and 2012.

Yet, that desire to get over the hump wasn’t reserved for just the seniors.

“It means everything [to win the title]. I’ve been working for this for as long as I’ve been playing water polo,” said junior two-meter player Elissa Arnold, who finished with two goals. “This is the ultimate goal to win CIF in high school and I’m excited to go again next year.

“I wanted to do this for the seniors, who suffered the losses the last couple of years. It was important to win for them.”

The victory not only provided the starting point of a culture change at Crescenta Valley, but perhaps also served notice to the talent of senior goalie Gabriel Isacson, who finished with 16 saves.

Despite not having much competition in league and not needing to be stellar throughout the postseason, Isacson was stout on a day when her team’s offense struggled to put away opportunities and finished with a postseason-low 10 goals.

“I’m numb right now. I know it will probably hit me tomorrow morning, but I don’t even know what to think,” Isacson said. “Our defense was really amazing today, at least from my perspective. It really helped me out because I was able to tell when someone was going to shoot.”

Isacson turned in a perhaps the game-changing moment at the 4:35 mark in the second quarter when she blocked a five-meter attempt from Jacqueline Bywater that preserved the Falcons’ two-goal lead.

“We’re so grateful for Gabe and rely on her so much,” Benson said. “She deserves a lot of credit. She’s an indispensible factor to our team.”

In the moments after the victory, Falcons first-year Coach Brent Danna was overcome with emotion and received hugs and handshakes from several former Falcons, such as graduated 2012 All-Area Girls’ Water Polo Player of the Year Sabrina Hatzer and former coach Pete Loporchio.

While his stewardship cannot be understated, Danna was thankful for those who came before him.

“I’m speechless. It’s huge. I just happened to be the one in the pilot’s seat today,” said Danna, who was hugged by his former coach, El Toro’s Don Stoll. “Adam Roth over at the Rose Bowl and those guys over there have done a tremendous amount to put us in the position to win the title.

“Pete Loporchio taking these girls to two consecutive semifinals and having that experience helped and coach [Peter] Kim also helped. I’m just glad to be a part of the ride.”

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