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Falcons fly away with gold

The Falcon Water Polo Club, made up of Crescenta Valley and South Pas players, takes gold in the Junior Olympics Gold Division.

August 12, 2011|By Andrew Shortall, andrew.shortall@latimes.com

Pete Loporchio, coach of the Falcon Water Polo Club, wasn't worried about results when his team entered the Swim Outlet Junior Olympics seeded 46th out of 48 teams.

Loporchio was just happy when the Falcons, a girls' water polo club made up of players from Crescenta Valley and South Pasadena highs, picked up their first win over Bear River, 7-3, after the team dropped its first two games of the tournament.

"Never in my wildest dreams did I think we were going to win eight games in a row," said Loporchio, who also coaches the Crescenta Valley High girls' water polo team.

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That's just what Loporchio's squad, which is also coached by Robert Echeverria, the coach of the boys' and girls' water polo teams at South Pasadena, did. The Falcons rode an eight-game winning streak to capture the gold medal in the Gold Division of the Swim Outlet Junior Olympics, held Aug. 4-7 in Orange County.

"It's very hard to combine two teams and have these girls learn different styles," Echeverria said. "[Loporchio and I] both have different systems, but we were both flexible at trying new things. I think that made the girls feel a lot more comfortable with each other in the pool."

Echeverria also coached the South Pasadena Boys' Water Polo Club to gold in the 18U Gold Division. South Pasadena lost to Clovis, 9-5, and Rose Bowl, 13-3, in the first day. Those were the only games the squad lost as it pulled out two wins over Daca, 8-7 and 8-8 (3-1 in penalty shots), and a 13-10 win over Stanford in the championship game of the tournament.

"The first day the guys were just inexperienced and that got to them," Echeverria said. "From that point on, they got the nerves out and played every game like it was their last."

The Falcons notched a 6-4 win over La Jolla in the championship game. The Falcons scored two goals with a 1:30 left in the game and tied the score, 4-4.

"I felt so accomplished [after we won the championship], like all the hard work we dedicated to the tournament had paid off," said Sabrina Hatzer, a member of the team and Crescenta Valley student.

It was a long road to the championship for the Falcons.

"We were the underdogs all the way through the back bracket," Loporchio said. "Everyone we played was a higher seed and that's a pretty remarkable thing. I think the girls started believing in themselves and getting some confidence."

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