BURBANK HIGH — The Burbank High girls' water polo team didn't have much competition in the first two matches of their own third annual Burbank Tournament.
In the opening pool-play contests Friday at Burbank High, the Bulldogs surrendered just two goals and earned easy victories against West Torrance and La Cañada.
However, that soft competition might have been detrimental to the Bulldogs when they faced Sherman Oaks Notre Dame in the third contest of the day.
Burbank came out sluggish in the first half against the Knights and found itself in a heated, physical battle.
However, the Bulldogs picked up their play in the second half and surged to a 9-4 victory that kept them undefeated in Group B.
In addition to playing two weaker teams in the opening rounds of play, Burbank (6-2) was missing its starting hole-set, Abby Glessner, who was taking part in a choir recital.
"We were worried because we were missing Abby and no one had really played at hole-set for us before," Burbank first-year Coach Evelin Setaghian said. "But I think the girls just played their hearts out and we were able to win a tough, physical game."
Burbank will play its final pool-play match against Pacific League foe Arcadia at 8:50 a.m. today. The championship contest is scheduled for 6 p.m.
The Bulldogs started the day with a 16-2 victory against West Torrance. Janna Ayvazyan, Seika Ha and Natalie Pentkowski all tallied three goals against the Warriors.
Burbank then defeated the Spartans, 12-0, in a match that was halted after three quarters after the La Cañada coach got a red card, was kicked out of the match and there was no assistant coach to take over the team.
Pentkowski and Gabi Rodriguez tallied ¿three goals each in the victory.
Against Notre Dame, Burbank scored just one goal in the first quarter and the Knights tied the score with 1:04 left in the second. However, Rodriguez scored with 11 seconds left in the half to give the Bulldogs a slim lead, 4-3.
"In the second half the girls started communicating and they started taking the shots from the outside," Setaghian said. "They just played amazingly."
The Bulldogs outscored the Knights, 3-0, in the third quarter to give themselves a little breathing room."
Notre Dame got as close as 7-4 in the fourth.
Burbank has been able to be successful in the tournament partly due to the play of junior goalkeeper Jasmine Ellman. Ellman, a field player who had never played in the cage, got the call less than two months ago when the Bulldogs' starting keeper quit the team.
"It was very hard at first, but I really love it," Ellman said. "But I feel like I'm progressing and every game I focus on something new to learn and I'm feeling more comfortable. And the girls have been very good to me."
Against Notre Dame, Pentkowski and Rodriguez had three goals each.
"We figured that Notre Dame was going to be the toughest team that we faced in our group," said Setaghian, a former Burbank standout."