NORTHWEST GLENDALE — Every team has the same game plan when it faces the Hoover High boys’ water polo team — shut down Hakop Kaplanyan.
Easier said than done, as Kaplanyan proved again when Burbank visited Hoover on Thursday. The reigning All-Area Boys’ Water Polo Player of the Year scored a match high seven goals and led the Tornadoes to a 20-10 Pacific League victory.
"[Kaplanyan] is a rare talent and he’s going to find ways to score,” Hoover Coach Kevin Witt said. “You can only hope to contain him, you can’t stop him.”
Kaplanyan got Hoover (12-3, 2-0 in league) out to a quick start, scoring three of the Tornadoes’ five first-quarter goals.
“They came out a little bit harder than us and we shut down a little mentally,” Burbank Coach James Berman said. “We weren’t expecting that. We had a game plan, but we didn’t run it efficiently and that’s why we lost.”
Burbank’s plan was to contain Kaplanyan by trapping him at the two-meter position. Berman switched it to a straight double team after Kaplanyan tallied three early goals gave the Tornadoes a 5-1 lead after the opening quarter.
Kaplanyan said the Bulldogs (12-2, 0-2) held him in check pretty well, but his teammates were there to help carry the load.
“I don’t care how many goals I get as long as the teams wins,” Kaplanyan said. “I want my men to step and up and help me out and not put it all on me.”
David Pogosian and Vahe Avalyan each had four goals for Hoover.
The Tornadoes extended their lead to 11-2 with 2:22 left in the half, but then Burbank came to life and went on a 4-1 run to close out the half and bring the score to 12-6, thanks to four different goal scorers.
“We started to realize we could score on these guys,” Berman said.
Hoover’s early lead was too much for Burbank to overcome, though. The Bulldogs’ hopes were dashed when Kaplanyan scored two of his team’s four third-quarter goals, as the Tornadoes took a 16-7 lead into the final quarter.
Sam Akopian’s second goal of the game for Burbank ended the scoring at 20-10 late in the fourth quarter. Daniel Gonzalez and Dante Nazarian also had two goals for the Bulldogs, but it wasn’t enough.
“They’re pretty much a one or two-trick pony, but they ran it effectively,” Berman said of Hoover’s reliance on Kaplanyan. “Hakop is one hell of a one-trick pony.”
Hoover’s defense was anchored by Sevada Khodaverdi’s presence in goal, as he finished with 11 saves.
“It’s league, it’s go time,” said Khodaverdi, explaining his strong play. “You can’t afford to let up in league.”
Kaplanyan said it’s clear to him that Khodaverdi has no plan on losing any time soon.
“Sevada is stepping up,” Kaplanyan said. “The other day I asked the team who really wants to win CIF — that ring. He just gave it right back to me, he wants it.”