BURBANK – Though the Glendale High boys' water polo team boasts an offense that can certainly score, it's been the defense that has impressed as of late.
The visiting Nitros held their sixth straight opponent to single-digit scoring in a 16-8 victory over Burbank in Pacific League action Tuesday afternoon.
"The win came from our defense," Glendale coach Narek Vardanian said. "I talked to the guys about not giving Burbank any space. When Burbank shot early, our guys were dropping a little too much, maybe giving them too much respect.
"So, we started to press, get to the outside shooters and that's when everything turned for us."
Burbank (6-4, 0-3 in league) tied Glendale (9-2, 2-1) at 3 with 1:14 left in a back-and-forth first quarter after a goal from Varuzhan Bilbulyan (team-leading four goals and two steals) off an assist from George Sarkissov.
What was unknown at the time was that the score was the last for the Bulldogs in the first half.
The Nitros embarked on a game-changing 7-0 run capped on a goal from Nick Schmitt with 4:14 left in the third quarter that put the visitors ahead, 10-3.
Glendale held Burbank scoreless for the entire second quarter and eventually for 11 minutes and 41 seconds until junior Artush Gasparyan broke the drought with a 10-meter goal at the three-minute mark in the third quarter to bring Burbank within 10-4.
"We got into passing lanes and just pressed Burbank the whole time, which usually works," said Glendale sophomore goalie Ronald George, who finished with 16 saves. "We got a bunch of steals and we just kept countering."
Burbank trailed, 12-5, at halftime and tried to rally behind its defense as the Bulldogs forced 11 of their 16 turnovers in the second half.
Burbank even outshot Glendale, 21-13, in the second half. Yet, the Nitros still outscored the Bulldogs, 7-5, as their defense forced Burbank to funnel most of its shots right into the path of George, who finished with 10 second-half saves.
For its part, Glendale was efficient and economical in the second half as eight of its 13 shots were on goal, with seven scoring.
"We've talked about being unselfish all season," Vardanian said. "This is a game where it clicked the most. I didn't have to tell the guys who to pass to, if that makes sense. They were able to figure things out for themselves."
Glendale won each quarter leading, 4-3, after one, 9-3, at the half and, 12-5, going into the fourth quarter.
Glendale's Gevork Karapetyan led all scorers with seven goals and two steals, while Hike Pashaian and Michael Georgizian added two goals apiece.
Brandon Wilson chipped in two goals for Burbank, which has struggled in league.
Burbank has scored 19 goals in three league matches, while its defense has allowed 66. That's in contrast with the team going 6-1 and averaging 19 goals per game through seven nonleague contests.
"My guys weren't playing defense, they weren't getting back on defense and they were all worried about scoring, but you can't score unless you stop the other team from scoring," Burbank coach Allyson Young said. "So, it's poor defense that killed us."