Burroughs’ Nathan named Pacific League Player of the Year in girls’ water polo

Burroughs High girls' water polo goalkeeper Ema Nathan was named the Pacific League Player of the Year.
(Raul Roa/Burbank Leader)

Throughout the girls’ water polo season, Pacific League teams had to figure out a way to score against Burroughs senior Ema Nathan.

Sturdy in the cage, the Indians goalkeeper came up with big saves time after time and ultimately broke school records for career and single-season saves to help lead Burroughs to a runner-up finish in league.

For her stellar season, Nathan was named the Pacific League Player of the Year, headlining all-league selections that honored five other Burroughs players and a pair of Burbank athletes.

“Her talent is undeniable,” Burroughs coach Jacob Cook said. “When we were doing the voting for player of the year, everyone asked if I was going to nominate Ema. A bunch of other people nominated their players, but when the voting came to it, it was unanimous, basically. Almost everyone voted for her, even the ones that put up their own player. Epic high school career.”

Burroughs capped the season with a 19-8 record and a trip to the CIF Southern Section Division V quarterfinals, where the Indians lost to No. 2-seed California.

The Indians fell to top-seed Arcadia, 8-7, in overtime in the league’s tournament championship match. Burroughs also defeated Crescenta Valley for the first time in program history in the tournament semifinals behind an incredible performance from Nathan, who tallied 26 saves.

Nathan finished her career with 733 saves, which was five more than her previous two seasons combined. The University of the Pacific-commit bested Kate Wilke’s career record total by 142.

The senior also broke the single-season record with 369 saves, 52 more than Wilke’s previous single-season record.

Selected to the first team was Burroughs sophomore attacker Clarissa Robles and freshman Nancy Baylor. As the team’s go-to goal-scorers, Robles scored 72 goals and Baylor finished with 54.

Burroughs junior attackers Angelina Lee (17 goals) and junior Chrissy Vlick were honored with second-team accolades and Indians junior Isabella Mucha was named honorable mention.

“Everyone was proud of it,” Cook said. “The coaches and the players were proud of it. At our banquet, we just kept saying let’s keep riding this. All the goals we had this year, we’ll have next year, too. It fired the girls coming up. We’re going off with that.”

Burbank received a pair of all-league selections after finishing 12-9 and a fifth-place showing in league.

The Bulldogs qualified for the CIF playoffs for the first time in nine years, falling in the first round in Division V to Fontana, 5-1.

Bulldogs senior attacker Sara Shahbazian was honored with second-team accolades and junior goalkeeper Jenny Stepnayan received honorable mention.

“I’m really proud of them because it’s hard switching to a new coach,” Burbank coach Melani Aghazarian said. “It’s hard learning a new way to play, so I’m really proud that they stepped up. They really improved and they made it to CIF after nine years. I’m really proud of them and really excited for next year and to see what’s to come.”

Shahbazian proved to be the Bulldogs’ most consistent scorer, tallying 52 goals.

“She was a great leader of this team. She was the best offensive player this year at our banquet because led most of our offensive plays,” said Aghazarian, a Glendale High graduate. “Once she started to learn how to turn properly and without getting offensive calls, she was a turning machine.

“I think that’s going to be her go-to move now. Once she started doing that, she was turning everybody from everywhere. I think she just needed the proper teaching because with her potential, she bloomed toward the end of the season.”

Stepanyan recorded 146 saves and had many late blocks to keep the Bulldogs in close games.

“Any time our defense was off, she was there to save the day,” Aghazarian said. “Her length and fast reflexes came through for us in so many games.”

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