The area's top-10 high school teams from the 2011-12 season were selected by the Glendale News-Press sports department.
1 Crescenta Valley High boys' swimming: Before the season began, Coach Jan Sakonju had a feeling that the Falcons might be in line to challenge for a CIF Southern Section Division II championship. He also knew it wouldn't be easy. Looking at his roster, the Falcons appeared to have everything in place to win the program's first CIF crown since 2000.
With a cast that featured Young Tae Seo, Harrison Thai and Louis Wojciechowski, the Falcons were indeed ready for battle. It came down to the final race in the meet — the 400-yard freestyle relay — in Riverside for the Falcons to begin their long-awaited celebration. Thai, Wojciechowski and Edward Yi teamed with Seo, who swam the final leg and help the Falcons finish with a meet-record mark of 3 minutes 5.50 seconds.
Crescenta Valley edged favored Damien, 301-293.
"We came in before the season and wanted to challenge Damien," said Sakonju, whose team had earlier won its 20th Pacific League championship in a row. "We got ourselves into some tough meets with great teams like Loyola and Hart, so the tough scheduling also helped us.
"Everybody on our team wanted to have that accomplishment of winning CIF, and they worked hard toward that goal. It came down to a great relay at the end and we beat a great team. This CV team will be one that I'll always remember."
2 Crescenta Valley High boys' soccer: Crescenta Valley oozed with talent, but winning a CIF championship was an tough goal to achieve. The Falcons had a new coach in Grant Clark, who was already familiar with the Falcons' personnel having coached the school's junior varsity team the previous several seasons. It didn't take long for the Falcons to take off with forward Pavle Atanackovic, midfielder Alex Berger and goalkeeper Nick Ruiz.
Crescenta Valley finished 23-1-6, 12-0-2 in the Pacific League and won the CIF Southern Section Division IV championship, the first in program history. Crescenta Valley knocked off top-seeded El Rancho, 3-0, in the championship match at Warren High. For good measure, the Falcons advanced to the title game of the CIF Southern California Regional Championships Division I final, falling to Paramount, 2-1.
Atanackovic finished with a school-record 39 goals and nine assists for an area-leading 87 points and was named the All-Area Boys' Soccer Player of the Year for the second straight season. Berger was named the All-CIF Division Player of the Year and Pacific League's Most Valuable Player after recording 10 goals and 29 assists for 49 points.
3 Renaissance Academy boys' basketball: Several times in the past decade, the Wildcats have reached the CIF finals only to finish as bridesmaids. Renaissance finally shed that tag in a big way, coasting to the CIF Southern Section Division VI championship. For veteran Renaissance Coach Sid Cooke, the feeling of seeing his team win the program's first CIF championship was pure satisfaction.
"It was hard, but I'm glad we got back," Cooke said. "Sometimes I thought we would never get back."
Behind a monstrous lineup that featured Jessy Cantinol and Vince de Guzman, the Wildcats took third in the Harbor League. .
Renaissance (27-7, 1-2) notched a 67-45 win against California Lutheran in the championship game of the playoffs. It's season finished with a 58-57 loss in the Southern California regional final against Village Christian, which went on to win the state championship.
4 Crescenta Valley High boys basketball: The Falcons appeared to have all the ingredients needed to challenge for the Pacific League and carry them through the CIF Southern Section Division I-A playoffs. Crescenta Valley returned all five of its starters — Christian Misi, Rudy Avila, Davis Dragovich, Dylan Kilgour and Cole Currie — and finished second in league before reaching the semifinals for the first time since 1994. For good measure, the Falcons made an appearance in the state playoffs for the first time since 1994, losing to eventual state champion Santa Ana Mater Dei.
It seemed as though the Falcons (26-6, 12-2 in league) could do no wrong under Coach Shawn Zargarian. They got down the stretch in the regular season and took their level of play to the next level in the postseason.
5 Crescenta Valley High girls' water polo: With a nice blend of offense centering around from Sabrina Hatzer and a rock-solid goalkeeper in Gabriel Isacson, the Falcons withstood plenty of challenges throughout the season and found themselves undefeated entering the semifinals of the CIF Southern Section Division V playoffs. Unfortunately for the Falcons, their winning streak and championship aspirations fell in one big swoop when it suffered a 9-7 defeat against defending champion Temescal Canyon at Mount San Antonio College in Walnut. The Falcons finished 31-1 under what would be the last season at the helm of Coach Pete Loporchio.
The Falcons went 8-0 in Pacific League and easily won the league championship.
6 Hoover High boys' water polo: With Hakop Kaplanyan, the reigning All-Area Boys' Water Polo Player of the Year, back in the mix, it seemed like the perfect time for the Tornadoes to make some of their own history. That's precisely what they accomplished, as the Tornadoes advanced to the CIF Southern Section Division V semifinals for the first time in the program's history.
It was Kaplanyan who loomed large for the Tornadoes (17-7, 6-2). The senior utility player was voted to the All-CIF first team and was tabbed as the league's most valuable player. He wrapped up his brilliant four-year career with 593 goals, the second most all time in both the CIF Southern Section and state.
7 Glendale High boys' water polo: Things came together quite nicely for the Nitros, who won the Pacific League championship for the first time since 2002. Glendale received important contributions from hole/guard driver Arman Momdzhyan and hole/set Shant Tokatyan to advance to the CIF Southern Section Division V quarterfinals, where it lost on the road to defending champion La Serna, 12-10, in overtime.
The Nitros, under the direction of Coach Forest Holbrook, topped cross-town rival Hoover twice. Glendale wrapped up the league title with a 12-8 victory against Hoover in the league tournament championship contest at Burbank High. Glendale finished its season 22-8, 8-0 in league.
8 Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy swimming: Led by the freshmen duo of Kirsten Vose and Katie Altmayer, the Tologs went on to win the Mission League championship. In addition, Flintridge Sacred Heart won five races at the league final at L.A. Valley College. The Tologs, coached by Steve Bergen, figured to be among the top teams vying for the league title. Vose and Altmayer, along with teammates Emily Balog and Meg Ryan, reached new heights.
9 St. Francis High football: The Golden Knights more than held their own during the 2011 season despite playing arguably the toughest schedule in the area, which included tilts against Mission League foes Gardena Serra and Chaminade. Led by Coach Jim Bonds, St. Francis was the lone local team to make an appearance in the playoffs. The Golden Knights finished 8-2, 3-2 in league.
10 St. Francis High soccer: Despite battling an assortment of injuries, the Golden Knights managed to stay in the hunt for the Mission League championship under the direction of Coach Glen Appels until the final match of the season. St. Francis finished 8-9-8 and 6-2-4 in league for third place before advancing to the second round of the CIF Southern Section Division I playoffs.