Much ado was made about the Crescenta Valley High girls' water polo team losing 12 seniors and returning just one true starter from its 2011 CIF semifinalist squad.
Along the same lines, much was overlooked as to what the Falcons did bring back, namely their second-leading scorer Sabrina Hatzer, who accomplished the feat while coming off the bench.
To be sure, it took an entire cast of former role players ready to take the lead in order for Crescenta Valley to remain at a championship level, both in the Pacific League and CIF Southern Section Division V. But Hatzer was most certainly a key to the Falcons' second straight run to the semifinals, the program's savior hiding in plain sight.
"That kind of encapsulates her personality in that she's really just very humble," Falcons Coach Pete Loporchio says. "I'm convinced she could have done the same thing last year, should we have chosen to."
Hatzer continued to score at a dizzying pace – her 106 goals were the fourth all-time single-season total in program history -- and the Falcons continued business as usual without missing a beat. They maintained a stranglehold on the Pacific League, going undefeated and winning a third straight outright title. While some assumed the team was resigned to a rebuilding phase, the Falcons instead repeated last year's march to the semifinals and did so without losing a match – their 9-7 loss to eventual division champion Temescal Canyon was the first in a remarkable 31-1 campaign.
"I couldn't be more proud of my team," Hatzer says. "We made it so far, we put so many hours into practice and to games and just overall I couldn't be more proud.
"Looking back, how we ended up, it was just phenomenal seeing everyone improve."
When it came down to awards, Hatzer was voted Pacific League Most Valuable Player and an All-CIF Division V first-team member after leading her team with 3.6 goals per match in the playoffs.
Finally, Hatzer was recognized as the All-Area Girls' Water Polo Player of the Year by the sportswriters and editors of the Glendale News-Press, Burbank Leader, La Canada Valley Sun and Pasadena Sun.
"She brings a lot of versatility besides just being a pure scorer," Loporchio says of Hatzer, who also recorded 61 steals and 42 assists. "She's a passer, she was our primary sprinter, many times we had to match her up with some of the better offensive players. She has tremendous ball-handling skills and is as good a passer as she is probably a scorer."
"She's just a great athlete. She has a lot of God-given talent in a lot of different areas."
Hatzer had a knack for coming up big in the biggest of games, whether it was scoring seven goals against Burroughs, the Falcons' toughest league competitor, or scoring a game-tying goal in the fourth quarter to send the Falcons' quarterfinal thriller against Los Altos to overtime.
It was a feat reminiscent of what she did just days earlier in scoring to force overtime against La Serna in one of the Falcons' biggest wins of the regular season.
"We had a lot of pressure on us, but we didn't totally break down or panic," Hatzer said. "We just took it step by step and had to focus on what we had to accomplish.
"I pushed myself a lot more and tried to push my teammates a lot more."
Hatzer's goal production this season puts her in rare company along with CV notables Kim Fraisse, Lybov Tchougounova and Kristin McLaughlin.
But while Loporchio points out those players didn't have the depth around them that Hatzer did, he also claims her accomplishment is all the more impressive because, unlike those players, who were either 2-meter or perimeter players, Hatzer, a right-handed shooter, played on the right side, a natural spot for a left-hander.
"They weren't playing on the side she had to play, where she's trying to score goals at a tough angle," Loporchio says. "That is unique in itself. She just knew we needed her in that spot for us to be successful, but that's asking a lot for her to score that many goals from that side.
"She can score in so many different ways."