NORTHWEST GLENDALE — A season prior, the Crescenta Valley High boys’ water polo team survived its match against an upstart Hoover squad, escaping with a one-goal victory.
This time around, the Falcons knew what was coming and executed their game plan to the tune of a 15-9 Pacific League win against the host Tornadoes on a rainy Tuesday afternoon at Hoover High.
“We executed our game plan a lot better than last year,” said Crescenta Valley’s Alan Dearman, who had three goals, all in the first half. “We knew them a lot better.”
The Falcons, the defending league and CIF Southern Section Division VI champions, used stifling defense to transition into a fast offense, made the most of crisp passing and did well in double-teaming Tornadoes All-Area standout Hakop Kaplanyan, though he still had a match-high five goals.
“They counter-attacked out of our offense very well,” said Hoover Coach Ara Oganesyan, whose team fell to 11-8 overall and 2-1 in league.
The Falcons (9-8, 2-0 in league), ranked second in the division, sped out to a 4-1 lead in the first quarter thanks to steals turning into assisted goals, as Matt Peters, who had a team-high four goals, scored off a Daniel Olson pass and then a Chris Veselich pass to make it 2-0.
Hoover’s Davo Pogossian, uncovered due to the Kaplanyan double, cut the lead in half, but Veselich scored off a Dearman pass before Dearman scored with just over a minute left in the first period.
In the final 1:10 though, each team scored twice in a wild frenzy that saw an own goal go against the Falcons and Kaplanyan drill a score at the buzzer for a 6-3 score.
The Falcons, who also received three goals from Veselich and two from Tanner Kober, extended their lead to 9-5 at the half with Robby Ruzicka assisting on goals from Olson and Dearman to highlight the stanza. Once more though, Kaplanyan scored the period’s final tally, this time on a five-meter shot with 0:54 remaining.
Oganesyan maintains that his team is well aware that every team’s plan will be to swarm Kaplanyan, but, for the most part the Tornadoes’ offense held up, it was the transition defense against the speedy Falcons that faltered.
“We still got nine goals,” he said. “The guys saw that the offense we run worked. Our offense will be successful. If our offense isn’t successful, we have to be ready to get back on defense.”
Hoover got three goals from Pogossian and eight saves from goalie Ron Glandorian.
Crescenta Valley goalie Rane Colvin proved to be a detriment to the Tornadoes all day long, tallying 15 saves, including five in the first period, which set a disappointing tempo for Hoover.
“He was incredibly clutch,” Falcons Coach Jan Sakonju said of Colvin. “Rane has been superb in the goal. His passing was on, his blocking was on.”
Colvin had four saves in the third period, one in which the teams combined for just three scores. He assisted on Martin Rivera’s score with 5:08 to go. Veselich added another tally and it wasn’t until 5:49 was left in the fourth that Hoover scored again, as Kaplanyan broke a scoreless span of 7:39.
Kaplanyan’s tally cut Crescenta Valley’s lead to 11-7, but a pair of goals from Kober off of Andrew DeJong passes followed in a 27-second span to truly put the game out of reach at 13-7 with 4:21 left to play.
“They forced a lot of turnovers,” Sakonju said of his defense, “and they were able to take advantage with their speed.”
In all, seven Falcons scored goals, while three Tornadoes had tallies.
“That’s what we’ve been building on since the season started is working as a team,” Dearman said. “There’s times when we play as a team and it’s perfect.”