ARCADIA — Burbank High senior Sera Shabhazian and her girls’ water polo teammates remembered very clearly the undesirable result of their matchup against Arcadia High last season.
As the Bulldogs faced the host Apaches on Thursday in a Pacific League contest, the memory of the four-goal loss was fixated in their minds.
Behind four goals from Shabhazian, Burbank kept pace with Arcadia, but a five-meter penalty shot separated the two as the Apaches were victorious, 6-5.
“Even though we lost, this was a big improvement for our team in general,” said Shabhazian, whose squad fell to Arcadia, 11-7, last season. “It was kind of a win-lose situation, but last year, we got blown out by Arcadia, and this year, we were head-to-head. That just shows, as a team, we stepped it up. Even though we lost, I’m very happy about that.”
Shabhazian tied the match at 4 with 3:45 remaining in the third quarter, but the Apaches constantly tested Bulldogs goalkeeper Jenny Stepanyan thereafter. Arcadia put up six shot attempts, but three bounced off the post and three were saved by Stepanyan.
“Losing by one doesn’t feel like a major loss to me,” Burbank first-year coach Melani Aghazarian said. “We’ll probably see them at the Pacific League tournament, and that’s when it will count more.
“I’m not upset about it because they’ve improved so much since preseason. Their offense is looking so much better and their defense is looking amazing. They’re stealing balls and really getting up in the lanes. I’m not upset because they’ve improved and that’s all I can ask for as a coach.”
The Bulldogs (5-5, 1-1 in league) had possession early in the fourth, but the pass back to goal was intercepted and scored by Delaney Prater to give Arcadia a 5-4 lead.
Burbank senior Sophia Brice immediately responded to tie it at 5. However, with 5:01 left, Arcadia earned a five-meter shot that was slotted home by Alie Cicero.
“It’s something we’re working on and need to continue to working on, but it made it harder on ourselves than we hoped originally,” said Arcadia coach Janice Clark of her Apaches’ shooting. “We just knew in a league-game situation, it’s super important that if we want to try to get to CIF — which is our goal — we have to get these league games won.”
Stepanyan finished with nine saves and Bulldogs sophomore Julie Kim had two assists.
“Sera really put in a lot of work today, and my goalkeeper Jenny had major blocks, or else we would’ve been losing by a whole lot more,” said Aghazaraian, a 2014 Glendale High graduate.
The Apaches (7-9, 1-1) opened the scoring with a goal from Christina Chua (three goals) two minutes into the first quarter, but Shabhazian responded 30 seconds later to tie it at 1.
Shabhazian gave the Bulldogs the lead with two seconds left in the opening quarter before the senior scored her third goal to give Burbank a 3-1 advantage early in the second.
After back-to-back saves from Stepanyan, the Apaches broke through with a pair of goals from Chua and the go-ahead score from Prater for a 4-3 lead with 1:39 left in the half.