With two coaches looking for a change of scenery at Crescenta Valley and Glendale highs, the rival schools examined the possibility of a swap among health teachers who to be manning the pool deck, as well.
It came in 1992, shortly after Chris Kaufman had already turned the Crescenta Valley boys’ swimming and water polo teams into some of the top programs in the area while also serving as a health instructor. Over at Glendale, Pete Loporchio had spent several years as a health teacher and achieving success with the Nitro boys’ water polo and swimming teams.
With Kaufman closing in on retirement and seeking to step away from coaching and Loporchio exploring new avenues, the schools were able to successfully engineer a “trade,” with Kaufman heading to Glendale just to teach, while Loporchio would continue teaching in the classroom and on the pool deck.
Crescenta Valley enjoyed a windfall with Loporchio on board, leading to a dynastic run in boys’ swimming and further stabilizing the boys’ and girls’ water polo programs.
“I had been a referee during several Crescenta Valley water polo scrimmages in the summer of 1992,” Loporchio said. “Chris asked me at that time if I knew anybody who might be interested in taking over for him.
“I had been coaching and teaching at Glendale for the previous few years and I had an interest in maybe taking over at CV. I had lived in La Crescenta at the time shortly before I got married. It turned out the schools were able to make a trade.”
After he became coach of the swimming and water polo teams at Crescenta Valley, Loporchio would go on to oversee a juggernaut boys’ swimming team that would win four CIF Southern Section Division II championships between 1993-2000. In addition, Loporchio guided the boys’ water polo team to a CIF finals appearance in 1999 and was one of two architects, along with Peter Kim, to start a girls’ water polo team at the school in 1996.
It is for those accomplishments that Loporchio will be inducted into the Crescenta Valley High Athletic Hall of Fame on Saturday at Chevy Chase Country Club in Glendale. Loporchio will be one of eight individuals to be enshrined, along with the 1998 baseball team that won a CIF Southern Section Division I crown.
“I’ve been blessed to have coached some of the top water polo players and swimmers,” said Loporchio, who is a science teacher at Crescenta Valley and the current women’s water polo and swimming coach at L.A. Valley College. “They are the ones who made it possible to achieve success at CV.
“I’ve been able to build steady relationships with people throughout the years and that’s made it that much more rewarding being in the coaching business.”
Loporchio, a Glendale High graduate, coached at his alma mater from 1985-90 and also coached the Occidental College men’s water polo team from 1992-93. At Crescenta Valley, Loporchio made his mark by turning the Falcons into a respected program. In boys’ water polo, Loporchio went 110-43 overall and guided the Falcons to seven Pacific League titles between 1993-2000. Loporchio, in two separate stints with the girls’ water polo team, finished 158-38 with six league crowns.
A stickler for detail with impeccable organizational skills, Loporchio, 53, was able to get his athletes to understand his coaching philosophies.
“There was already a rich tradition at CV because of Chris,” said Loporchio, who went 79-1-1 in dual meets while coaching the Crescenta Valley boys’ swimming team. “You could immediately see the potential that the athletes had.
“I just wanted to try to establish a philosophy and culture to help each and every one of them raise their level of play. I wanted to bring in my own vision without sacrificing the great tradition that had already been built by Chris. I was cognizant of that. There was no such thing as cutting corners. If they paid attention and did things the right way, then there was no doubt we’d be able to generate plenty of success.”
Normally sporting a cap and a pair of sunglasses on the deck, to go along with a collared shirt featuring the Crescenta Valley trademark Falcon logo and khaki pants, Loporchio made sure the Falcons followed his instructions precisely. Whether it was a prolific goal scorer in water polo or the top freestyle swimmer looking to churn out a personal-best mark, Loporchio’s athletes often got the message of what he was trying to instill.
In short, Loporchio meant business, something that wasn’t lost in the translation between him and his athletes.
“He’s well-respected and he wants things done the right way,” said Evan Robb, a four-year varsity swimmer who captured a CIF Southern Section Division II championship in the 200-yard individual medley in 1997. “I played water polo for two years and swam four years for him and he wanted you to do your best and put yourself in position to succeed.
“He always supported you and worked with you to make you better at whatever you were competing in. You can’t think of CV aquatics without mentioning his name.”
Sabrina Hatzer, a former standout girls’ water polo player at Crescenta Valley who went on to shine for Loporchio at Valley, said Loporchio’s passion for aquatic sports stands out.
“I’ve played for him now for six straights years,” said Hatzer, a former News-Press Female Athlete of the Year who swam for the Falcons also. “He’s very passionate about both sports and he’s able to teach the basics and integrate things at the more advanced level.
“He’s always got something new up his sleeve to teach and he’s the main reason why I wanted to play at Valley.”
Prior to guiding the Falcons’ boys’ swimming team to three CIF championships in a row between 1998-2000, Loporchio had an idea of beginning a girls’ water polo team at Crescenta Valley.
Loporchio spoke with Kim about the notion and the duo went to work hammering out the logistics.
“It’s just something that happened to come about,” Loporchio said. “Water polo was very popular on the boys’ side and Peter and I thought about trying to make it [happen] for the girls. We were kind of on the bubble of whether we could pull it off and we got the go-ahead to make it happen.
“Peter and I learned coming in that the dynamics between boys’ and girls’ water polo was vastly different. We had to learn and so did the girls. That first season, we started to schedule tough teams and we were able to fight through it. We were a freelance team that first season and we went 17-3. The players already knew how to swim, but there were different avenues for them to go down from learning how to catch and then shoot a ball. They just had to trust what Peter and I were teaching them and things would be fine.”
Kim, a Crescenta Valley High graduate and now the school’s girls’ athletic director, said forming the girls’ water polo team came at an opportunistic time.
“We asked one another how could we make the girls’ water polo team successful?” Kim said. “We figured this was something that might work and there would eventually be some success down the road.
“I still say he was the brains behind it happening. We were able to bring in some good athletes and I rode his coattails early on before taking over the program in 1997.”
Eventually the players caught on, including driver and hole/guard JJ Little, who was a senior the year the program began.
Little (now Little-Mendiola) said Loporchio and Kim were patient while the players learned to comprehend the basics the sport had to offer.
“They put in so much time to help us get better,” said Little-Mendiola, who had previously played on the school’s boys’ water polo team for a couple of seasons. “We already had a lot of strong swimmers, so it was just getting used to the fundamentals and getting experience.
“They were very patient while many of the players were figuring out how to play and what to do. If you focused on the essentials, things would eventually work out.”
Loporchio and Kim coached together for the 1996-97 season in girls’ water polo before Loporchio decided to focus solely on coaching the boys’ swimming team, which would include stars such as Kenny Carpenter, James Jenkins, Travis Taylor and Sean Winchell. He would go on to enjoy a second stint coaching girls’ water polo at Crescenta Valley from 2006-12. In that stretch, Loporchio led the Falcons to the semifinals in 2011 and 2012. Loporchio also coached his daughters, Stefanie and Hannah and coached the school’s girls’ swimming team in 2011 and 2012, leading the Falcons to a pair of league championships.
Shortly after the girls’ water polo season concluded in 2012, Loporchio was offered the women’s water polo head coaching job at Valley. Originally, Loporchio planned to coach water polo at Crescenta Valley and Valley, but Loporchio was then tabbed as Valley’s women’s swimming coach. That, in turn, created an overlap between the high school girls' polo and college women's swimming seasons.
“I just thought to myself that it wouldn't be fair to either program,” Loporchio said. “It was one of the hardest decisions that I’ve ever had to make, but I felt like I made the right one going to Valley because you might not get that opportunity again.
“I will still help out [current Crescenta Valley girls’ water polo Coach] Brent Danna whenever I can. It’s been a great experience to be a part of the aquatics programs at CV and being able to coach so many great athletes.”
Kim said Loporchio will always be in the conversation when discussing Crescenta Valley aquatics.
“Yes, he always had a lot of talent,” Kim said. “At the same time, he was the closest person I’ve known who has the knack for getting everything out of each and every player from the superstar to the bottom of the roster.”
--Follow Charles Rich on Twitter: @TCNCharlesRich.