Pete Loporchio has coached less-talented water polo teams in his seven years at Glendale High, but none has caused more frustration than this season's.
Glendale (12-12) has lost nine games by two goals or less. But Loporchio believes it is more a reflection of inexperience than ability.
"We're getting there," Loporchio said. "But we're not there yet."
Loporchio could have dismissed Glendale's first eight losses if the team had won its last game. Muir scored with 24 seconds left to defeat the Dynamiters, 13-12, in last week's Pacific League finale. Muir has won seven consecutive league titles.
"Losing all those close games has kind of demoralized us," senior goalkeeper Jerry Walton said.
Loporchio is hopeful that the damage was minimal. Glendale will play host to El Dorado today in the first round of the Southern Section 3-A playoffs at 3:15.
Loporchio hopes his second-place team compares favorably with any first-place team. "We have one of the best two-meter men in California," he claimed.
Many who have seen 5-10, 150-pound Lawrence Ocon play agree.
Despite frequently being double- and triple-teamed, the senior has scored a school-record 106 goals this season. Also, he holds the school record for most goals in a game, having scored 10 against Whittier this season.
"He's intelligent, quick and very tough physically," Loporchio said. "Teams try to stop him and he still produces four or five goals a game."
Said Walton: "He takes a lot of the pressure off of everybody. When we need a goal, he knows that he's the one who is going to score it."
And when the opposing team is on offense, Walton or goalkeeper Kerry Planeggar are responsible for stopping drives. Walton and Planeggar, both seniors, share time in goal. It has been a successful partnership.
A first-team all-league selection last season, Walton is more experienced in goal and passes well, but Planeggar has shown great improvement this season, Loporchio said. At 6-0, Planeggar has strong legs and a wide arm span that allows him to get good distance out of the water, his coach said.
"They complement each other very well," Ocon said. "They've really pushed each other."
Teams to watch:
In the 3-A Division, Crescenta Valley will play at top-seeded San Clemente. In the 2-A, La Canada will play at El Rancho. Both games are today at 3:15 p.m.
The La Canada volleyball team this season has learned that things sometimes are not what they seem.
Case in point:
After an upset loss to Flintridge Sacred Heart earlier this season, some players began to wonder whose side Coach Bobbie Estes was on.
"They tend to think that I get too carried away with being serious and structured," Estes said. "They said, 'We're afraid to come to the sideline during timeouts because you're going to yell at us.' They said, 'You gave up in that game.' I never give up.
"That was what they were interpreting. And like a lot of things, if somebody perceives you as being that way, it really doesn't matter if you are or not. So we talked about what I needed to change, what they needed to change. We really pulled it together."
La Canada (11-2) hasn't lost since.
Tonight at 7:30, the Spartans play host to Calabasas in the first round of the Southern Section 3-A playoffs. La Canada, which has won the past three Rio Hondo League championships, tied Temple City for this season's title.
La Canada, 38-5 over the past four seasons, has never advanced beyond the second round of the playoffs. Last season, the Spartans were ousted by Colton.
"Last year was a real transitional team," Estes said. "I had some seniors . . . I didn't miss them graduating. I miss them as girls but I don't miss them as athletes. One was an exceptional athlete but the other girls were not focused."
This season's team is a solid mix of intensity and ability, Estes said. Chris Puttler may be the most talented of all. The 6-0 senior recently moved from middle blocker to outside hitter.
Playing opposite Puttler is 5-11 senior Gabie Adams. The Spartan offense is run by senior setter Jane Leisner. When Leisner rotates to the back row, Erin Weaver, a 5-9 sophomore, takes over the right side.
Middle blocking duties are handled by 5-9 sophomore Jenny Pasqua and 5-11 senior Melinda O'Brien. When Estes needs a replacement at middle blocker, outside hitter or back row specialist, 5-9 sophomore Amy Colyar is the first player off the bench.
Teams to watch:
In the 4-A Division, Glendale plays host to El Dorado and Hoover visits Louisville. Flintridge Sacred Heart is the No. 1 seed in the Small Schools Division and plays host to Liberty Christian. All games are today at 7:30 p.m.
Catherine Edwards may have the best and worst kick in Crescenta Valley.
Edwards excels on the hills but admittedly lacks sprinting speed at the finish. The 5-2, 114-pound senior has proven abilities outside cross-country, however, earning a purple belt in karate.