NORTHWEST GLENDALE — Cole Veloz might not draw a harder assignment than the one that was given to him Wednesday afternoon.
Without hesitation, the Glendale High boys' water polo player gladly rose to the task at hand and helped his team pick up a key victory by matching up and successfully defending against one of the premier players in the state.
Veloz, a senior hole/guard, needed to defend Hoover's Hakop Kaplanyan, who scored 229 goals last season to set a CIF record. Veloz more than held his own.
"It was something new to me and I knew it would be exciting and challenging," Veloz said after teammate David Grigorian scored two man-advantage goals in the second three-minute overtime session to help visiting Glendale pick up a key 13-12 Pacific League win against cross-town rival Hoover in front of a packed house. "It was extremely tiring, but worth it.
"It's pretty surreal because he's one of the best players in the country. I'm pleased that we won this game because it was real intense."
Glendale Coach Forest Holbrook, whose team improved to 5-1 in league, made the change with Hoover clinging to a 4-2 lead with three minutes left in the second quarter. Hakopyan, the reigning All-Area Player of the Year, had earlier muscled his way past several Glendale athletes to spur the Tornadoes (10-16, 4-2 in league) with three of his team-best six goals. Then the 30-second shot clock malfunctioned, leading to a 15-minute delay and an opportunity for Holbrook to put a new strategy in place in an attempt to revitalize his squad.
"From club water polo teams to high school teams, they all agree Hakop is the most dominant player," Holbrook said Holbrook. "We started out planning to double-team him, but Hoover's outside shooters lit us up.
"So, we had Cole go in there to shadow and try to contain Hakop. Hakop scored only one goal in one-on-one situations and that was the game. That's the reason why we won."
It also helped that Glendale, ranked No. 8 in CIF Southern Section Division V, received a tying goal from Martin Narinyan with eight seconds left in regulation to send the game into overtime.
"You never know what to expect," said Hoover Coach Ara Oganesyan, whose team will face Glendale again in a league tournament semifinal match Tuesday at Burbank High. "We had an idea that they might play Hakop straight up.
"You have to give credit to Martin Narinyan. He's really the soul of that team and he kept them together."
Narinyan, who collected a match-best seven goals, scored with 1:53 left in the first overtime to give Glendale a 10-9 lead before Hoover responded with a goal each in the final minute from Kaplanyan and Todd Bazik to take an 11-10 lead. Narinyan then tallied again with 14 seconds left to knot the game at 11.
In the second overtime, Grigorian scored with 2:16 left to make it 12-11 before Hoover's Sevada Khodoverdi scored off a rebound with 1:52 left to make it 12-12. Grigorian then beat Hoover goalkeeper Ron Glandian, who missed part of the match after suffering a cut above his eye, with 1:10 remaining. Hoover had one final scoring opportunity when a shot by Khodoverdi was stopped with two seconds left.
"We hung on barely," said Holbrook, the reigning All-Area Boys' Water Polo Coach of the Year. "It was a tight game.
"The plan for us was to be patient and see if we could make something happen late on offense."
Glendale received four goals from Grigorian and one apiece from Martik Chatalyan and Shant Tokatyan. Hoover got two goals from Khodoverdi and Bazik and one each from Arthur Soghomonyan and Vahe Avalyan.