LA CAÑADA FLINTRIDGE — Throughout a stellar opening weekend and on into Monday afternoon, the Olimpiakan Reservner Titans 12-and-under boys' water polo team never tasted defeat in the 2010 USA Water Polo Junior Olympics.
The Titans' first loss in the tournament came in heartbreaking fashion on Monday at La Cañada High, where they were outlasted in a tense back-and-forth semifinal battle by the San Diego Shores, 12-10, and stopped one win short of today's gold-medal match.
"I'm happy with how far we've gone, this is a great tournament for our club the way we've performed," said Titans co-Coach Sarkis Zargaryan, whose team will play SoCal Black for the Bronze medal at 1 p.m. today at Contreras High. "But, obviously, we're a little disappointed. There was a couple shots that we normally would have made that just didn't go in for us."
Several of those attempts came in the fourth quarter, which saw the Titans, who were led by five goals from Manuk Piloyan and three from Artak Arzumanyan, rally from a three-goal deficit to pull within one with 2:00 left in the contest on a 6-5 man-advantage goal by Alen Tadevosian.
The Titans then got a stop and came close to tying the game on an attempt by Hayk Minasyan that went just wide before San Diego answered back with a well-covered cross-cage shot from the left side that snuck into the exposed far corner of the goal to fortify the lead at 12-10 with 48 seconds to play.
ORWP had a 6-on-5 opportunity on what would be its final possession, but an attempt by Minasyan was saved to end the game.
The Titans led, 5-3, at halftime and took their biggest lead of the game, 6-3, on a goal by Minasyan with 4:47 left in the third quarter.
But ejections, which had already forced starter Gevorg Grigoryan out of the match when he picked up his third of the match before halftime, piled up in the third quarter and opened the door for San Diego.
Given three opportunities with a man-advantage in the quarter, San Diego capitalized on all but one, tying the game on the third and taking an 8-7 lead into the fourth quarter.
"It hurt us a lot, one of our top players got kicked out because he had three ejections, so that hurt us with depth, too," Zargaryan said. "We didn't really have the subs to get in there, either, we had to use everybody."
The Titans had advanced to Monday's semifinal with opening-day wins over San Diego Shores B, 15-7, and South Bay United, 14-10, on Saturday.
The squad then beat Lamorinda A, 7-6, and United Blue, 17-9, on Sunday before beating Los Al, 15-13, in its first game on Monday.
ORWP also has a 14-and-under and 16-and-under boys' squad competing in the Junior Olympics, and both squads will play for ninth place in their respective divisions today.
The 14U team opened the tournament on Saturday with wins over Bakersfield, 9-5, and Commerce, 11-10. It lost to Newport WPF, 8-7, on Sunday, but came back to beat Los Angeles Water Polo, 8-7, later Sunday and Rose Bowl Aquatics, 12-11, on Monday before beating SET A, 11-9, to qualify for the ninth-place game at 12 p.m. today at West Adams Prep, where they will meet South Coast.
The 16U team beat Puget, 22-6, and Dirty Bay, 16-6, on Saturday, but lost to SET A, 11-5 on Sunday. The team went on to beat DACA Blue, 12-9, on Sunday and Carlsbad, 14-8, and Foothill Red, 14-7, on Monday. It will face SoCal Black at 12 p.m. today at Helen Bernstein High.
"I'm really proud of the kids," ORWP Program Head Coach Vik Arakelyan said. "Everyone is working hard to improve more."