SAN MARINO — A season after the most successful campaign in Hoover High boys' water polo chronicle, the Tornadoes look hardly the same. And it's intentional.
"We tried last year that one-man team and you can only go so far," said Hoover Coach Ara Oganesyan, whose 2009 squad advanced to the CIF Southern Section Division VI quarterfinals during a season in which Hakop Kaplanyan scored a CIF record 229 goals. "When you go to the CIF, that's the show.
"If it's gonna take some learning along the way, we'll make those sacrifices."
The latest sacrifice came in the form of a 9-7 nonleague loss to host San Marino on Tuesday afternoon.
It was a match in which Kaplanyan did not play at all the first quarter and was held out the start of the third quarter. The reigning All-Area Boys' Water Polo Player of the Year took just two shots in the match, scoring on both, as Oganesyan is looking for a more team-oriented style with a defensive foundation. Still, the coach admits his All-CIF standout has had his struggles adjusting.
"He's frustrated," said Oganesyan of Kaplanyan's take on the new system. "I think he's learning to be more of a leader, a vocal leader, than just carrying the team and trying to win the game."
On the positive side in the loss was the Tornadoes' defense to a certain extent. Led by Ryan Moguel's three steals, Hoover had 14 takeaways as a team.
"We're trying to focus on defense, defense, defense," Oganesyan said.
But at the same time, the offense struggled mightily, as San Marino (4-3) had 16 steals of its own.
Hoover trailed from the onset and didn't record its first shot — which was a goal by Arthur Soghomonyan — until 2:43 remained in the opening quarter and San Marino had tallied the match's first two goals.
Soghomonyan, who scored off a Moguel assist for the team's first goal, led the Tornadoes with four goals, scoring two apiece in each half.
His second of the first half, which was off his own steal in front of the San Marino cage, came at the 6:19 mark and was the last of the half for either team, as the Titans took a 4-2 halftime advantage.
San Marino went scoreless for a span of 11:35 until it tallied the third period's only goal with 3:08 to go in the stanza, making it 5-2, while Hoover went scoreless until the 5:47 mark of the fourth when Soghomonyan scored off a Vahe Avalyan assist to cut the score to 6-3.
A Kaplanyan score made it 7-4, but Hoover missed a point-blank shot in a two-on-one situation and gave up an immediate goal on the counter-attack to truly shift the momentum.
While Oganesyan was hardly impressed by his team's performance, he's hardly concerned with wins and losses right now, stressing learning the new system and improvement over results.
"We wanted to give them more of a learning experience," said Oganesyan, whose team had just one sub on Tuesday and will have only 10 players on its roster when it's full-strength. "The guys need to learn."
The learning continues on Thursday in Hoover's home opener against La Salle. It will be the Tornadoes' last match before Pacific League play begins.