By Brandon HENSLEY
Crescenta Valley High School girls’ water polo Coach Brent Danna wasn’t sure how to describe his team’s success midway through the season. So far, though, it appears the Lady Falcons’ play in the water has done most of the talking for him.
“I don’t know if I would say surprised,” Danna said after CV’s 17-7 league win over Arcadia on Jan. 16. “But our sights are to go back-to-back.”
Meaning, the Falcons want a second consecutive CIF Division V championship, which won’t be determined for several more weeks. After the Arcadia win, the Falcons were a solid 11-3 heading into Wednesday’s matchup with Hoover High School.
The girls captured the program’s first championship last February in Irvine, but Danna acknowledged it might be hard to repeat. The Falcons are returning only two starters from last year, seniors Elissa Arnold and Ashley Taylor. Gone are last year’s key players Breanna Lawton, Katie Benson and goalkeeper Gabriel Isacson, who was All-CIF in 2013. The girls also lost Shannon Hovanesian last summer when she decided to leave the program.
“When you really think about it, it’s a whole new team,” Danna said.
Other key players for this year’s squad are Audrey Taylor and Lynley Fernandez. But Arnold, who is committed to the University of Michigan next fall, and Taylor (Azusa Pacific University), are counted on as leaders.
“They have their own expectations, and they lead by example and hard work. They’re very positive and uplifting,” Danna said. “I make it very clear that if there’s going to be a negative voice, it’s going to be mine. … That way if anyone gets mad or gets their feelings hurt the animosity is directed at me.”
The Falcons showed they could play with anyone in a non-league match Jan. 15 against Division III Harvard-Westlake. CV led 6-1 and eventually won 15-9, even after Audrey Taylor and Ani Aghakanian were both ejected.
“Girls have to find their rhythm. The more experienced girls have to get used to bringing the others up to the speed of the game, and just the whole level of varsity and they’ve done a great job,” Danna said.
As for the goalies, replacing Isacson is Tiffany Duarte and Mackenzie Drewe, who both played on junior varsity last season. Duarte usually starts the game, and Drewe plays the second half. Danna said former CV Coach Pete Loporchio has been working with them personally to improve their goaltending, and the girls have improved by “leaps and bounds” since the start of the year.
“He takes them, he looks at film with them,” Danna said of Loporchio. “He talks about the mental aspects of being a goalie as well as the physical demands and the general technique.”
The Falcons have tournament games Friday and Saturday, and then play at Pasadena High School Tuesday at 3:30 p.m.