BURBANK — Through 28 minutes of nerve-wracking, nailbiting, back-and-forth water polo, Hoover High and visiting Oxnard Pacifica combined for 84 shots, 44 goals and four quarters of offensive insanity.
And when the water had finally settled at the Burbank High pool, it was the Tornadoes, led by standout Hakop Kaplanyan’s 11 goals, that emerged with history in hand and a dramatic 23-21 victory over Pacifica in the second round of the CIF Southern Section Division VI playoffs.
“It’s big for our program, it’s big for our school, it’s big for our kids,” said Hoover Coach Ara Oganesyan of his squad advancing to the quarterfinals — where it will play top-seeded Webb on the road Saturday — for the first time in program history.
The Tornadoes (19-13) built their largest lead of the match at 20-15 on three straight goals — two from Davo Pogosian, who had seven goals, and one from Kaplanyan — before the Tritons (18-11) scored three consecutive times to bring the match back to within two.
That’s when Kaplanyan shined brightest, scoring his team’s remaining three goals over a span of 2:05, including perhaps its biggest of the night with 52 seconds remaining. That tally came just eight seconds after Pacifica had scored a controversial goal in which a Triton poked the ball away from Hoover goalie Ron Glandian to make it 21-20.
“I just told myself, this team ain’t gonna beat me, I just wanted to step up and win this for my team,” said Kaplanyan, who continued his run to history along with his team’s, upping his goal total to 223, just three removed from tying the all-time CIF Southern Section single-season mark. “[This win] means a lot. We’re actually putting Hoover’s name up on the charts. We’re making history right now.”
The match started with a jump ball after the sprint, perhaps a foreshadowing to the close nature that would overtake it.
Pacifica grabbed a 2-0 lead before Hoover scored its first goal via Vahe Avalyan, who had four goals.
Soon thereafter, Kaplanyan became a one-man gang.
In a span of less than three minutes, he scored Hoover’s following four goals to even the score at 5-5 and elicit Pacifica Coach Travis Dasnoit to bellow, “Double-team him every opportunity!”
And Pacifica fared well at times containing Kaplanyan, but never stopped him.
The match continued at a frenzied pace with Pacifica holding a 7-6 lead after the first period and a Kaplanyan score and a Pogosian tally in the final 43 seconds of the half tying the match at 11 going into intermission.
Indeed a possession without a score became happenstance.
“[Both teams] kept scoring goals, that was the worst part, but in the end, we were able to pull it out,” Pogosian said. “Our defense wasn’t too good, but all-around, we had a good offensive game.”
An Avalyan lob off a Pogosian assist tied the match at 14 with 3:20 to go in the third before Kaplanyan gave the Tornadoes their first lead of the night at 15-14 with 2:14 remaining. Pogosian scored again before the period concluded and Sevada Khodaverdi tallied a goal off a Tomik Manooki pass just 18 seconds into the fourth.
That run of four straight goals, combined with the aforementioned three-goal spurt, had the Tornadoes and their faithful thrilled with a five-goal lead. But the Tritons climbed back before the Tornadoes finally staved them off.
“I’m very proud of the guys for keeping their composure and pulling through in the end,” said Oganesyan, who also got 14 saves from Glandian. “They really fought it out and wanted that win.”