In attempting to win a third Pacific League championship in four years, the Hoover High boys’ water polo team is a work in progress despite an impressive mix of experience and depth.
That’s how veteran Hoover coach Kevin Witt described his squad shortly after it posted a 20-7 league home win against Burbank on Thursday.
“We definitely have the talent and we are moving in the right direction,” said Witt, who led Hoover to a league title last season. “We just need to work a little more together as a team and we still have a couple of weeks to get that done before the league tournament.
“Obviously, our goal is to get to the league championship game and win it again.”
Hoover (9-9, 3-0 in league) received a match-high nine goals from Hakop Ansuryan and five from Samvel Manukyan to outlast Burbank (3-4, 1-3). Hoover scored its most goals in a league match this season, eclipsing its mark of 19 against Arcadia on Oct. 3.
The Tornadoes built a 6-1 advantage after the first quarter and never trailed, though the youthful Bulldogs made a comeback attempt late in the first half to gain some traction.
Ansuryan scored three goals in the first quarter to ignite Hoover.
“I thought we came out strong and that helped us a lot,” said Ansuryan, whose third goal gave the Tornadoes a 6-0 lead with 30 seconds left in the first quarter. "[Burbank] came back and got close, but we were able to pull away in the second half.
“We have a very competitive team and we know other teams will play well against us. We have a lot of experience and we can be there to help out our younger players, too.”
Burbank closed to within 7-4 on a five-meter goal by Brian Di Mascio with 1:56 to go in the second quarter before Hoover ended the first-half scoring on a goal by Ansuryan with two seconds left.
The Tornadoes scored six third-quarter goals to build a 14-7 lead. Ansuryan had three goals in the quarter, while Manukyan had two and Eric Begijani contributed one.
“We started the second half very strong,” Witt said. “With Hakop, he’s just a great one-on-one player and a phenomenal defender. He can match up against the best player on the other team.”
Hoover also received two goals each from Levon Harutyunyan and Begijani and one apiece from Raffi Azarian and Hayk Yangibaryan.
Burbank first-year coach Mike Lucero said the Bulldogs played well in the first half before running out of steam in the second half.
“I thought we came back strong in the first half after falling behind and we were fine,” Lucero said. “We just started to get tired in the second half.
“We just have to find a way to stay tenacious. When we are running our plays, we can play with a team like Hoover. They can get that confidence knowing they can hang in there with anybody and that’s what we’ll take from today.”
Burbank got a team-best two goals from Jonathan Agazaryan and one each from Pavel Tantchev, Robert Khatazyan, Kouroush Dolatshani, Di Mascio and Avo Barsegyan.
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