Burbank water polo settles down to win CIF polo playoff opener

BURBANK HIGH — Burbank High and coach Kristina Garcia didn’t know much about Arlington from Riverside prior to the teams’ CIF Southern Section Division V opening-round boys’ water polo playoff match Wednesday.

“We looked around on the Internet and we tried to find information about them, but there just wasn’t that much,” Garcia said. “They weren’t in the media a lot, so finding out about them was extremely difficult.”

With little advanced information, the Bulldogs entered their opener with wide-eyed wonder. It turns out that any advanced scouting wasn’t necessary, as Burbank played well in the second and third quarters and finished with a 14-10 victory over the Lions at home.

The victory puts Burbank (14-7) — the runner-up from the Pacific League — into the second round for the first time since 2006, when it defeated Placentia Valencia in the first round and fell to Beverly Hills.

The Bulldogs will take on La Serna in a quarterfinal match Saturday. La Serna defeated Chadwick, 12-7, it its first-round contest Wednesday.

The fear of the unknown might have left the Bulldogs a little jittery in the opening minutes of the first quarter. They began with a host of shots, many of which were wild and way off the mark.

“I think I might have scared them because we were really unaware of what to expect,” Garcia said. “There were probably a little excited, anxious and I think that led to an exciting, but chaotic, first quarter.”

Arlington — the runner-up in the Inland Valley League — struck first in the opening quarter, and when Jordan Veiasco scored with 2:56 left, the Lions (12-9) had a 2-1 lead. But the Bulldogs came fighting back, getting goals from Zack Card and Patrick Vertani to take the lead, 3-2. Dante Nazarian added a goal at the 1:01 mark to stake the Bulldogs to a 4-2 advantage.

The teams traded goals in the final 38 seconds of the first and Burbank headed into the second quarter up, 5-3.

Nazarian paced Burbank with six goals. Card and Daniel Gonzalez added two goals each.

“We were kind of getting warmed up in that first quarter,” Nazarian said. “We were able to wake up and we realized that were in the CIF playoffs. We just had to go all out and I think we did that after that first quarter.”

Burbank outscored Arlington, 4-2, in the second and third quarters and headed into the final stanza with a 13-7 cushion.

Since the match was relatively in hand after three quarters, Garcia cleared her bench in the fourth quarter and gave some valuable playing time to a large group of reserves. The Lions outscored the Bulldogs, 3-1, in the final stanza.

“It’s not every day that you get to play everyone, let alone have that opportunity in a playoff game,” Garcia said. “People who have hardly played this season, people who have been sitting on the bench, got a chance to play in a CIF playoff game. They played today and I’m ecstatic about that.”

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