BURBANK — In defending its Pacific League title, the Crescenta Valley High boys' water polo team was kept on the defensive by Glendale for much of Thursday's league championship tournament final at Burbank High.
And, while the Falcons never trailed in securing their third straight outright league crown with an 11-7 victory, they also never had a moment to rest against a Nitros team that played them dead even on the scoreboard for the final three quarters.
"It was significantly difficult," said Crescenta Valley goalkeeper Rane Colvin, who had 14 saves. "They're really talented. We just stepped up."
Alan Dearman and Robby Ruzicka each had three goals to lead Crescenta Valley (21-4, 8-0 in league), which overcame a team-high four goals from Martin Narinyan to beat Glendale (6-2 in league) for the second time this season.
"I'm happy with the way our team played," Glendale Coach Forest Holbrook said. "Of course, I'd love to see a different result, but we're playing against Crescenta Valley, the best team in our division. We look forward to hopefully playing them in the CIF playoffs."
While not an overly physical match and largely devoid of controversy, Thursday's match did feature a total of 18 ejections, with each team having an equal number of 6-on-5 opportunities.
Crescenta Valley was able to cash in goals on its first three man-advantages on shots by Ruzicka, twice, and Louis Wojciechowski, all of which came in the first quarter. By the end the first period, the Falcons led, 5-1.
The Nitros went 0 for three on 6-on-5 chances during the same span, and although they ended up going three for nine on the game, the same as CV, the early deficit made it an uphill fight thereafter and they finished every subsequent quarter still down by four goals.
Glendale's best chance to cut into Crescenta Valley's lead came during a third period in which the Falcons scored only one goal on just two shot attempts through nearly the first five minutes.
That tally came courtesy of Dearman, his first of the game, and it kept the Falcons up, 8-4, after Narinyan had opened the period with a skip shot that slipped past Colvin.
With 4:35 left in the third quarter, Glendale thwarted a Falcons 6-on-5 with a steal and then drew an ejection of its own on the counter-attack, which led to a goal cutting the deficit to 8-5 with 4:16 to play.
Glendale disrupted another Falcons 6-on-5 about a minute later with a Narinyan steal, but couldn't capitalize and Wojciechowski scored with eight seconds left for a 9-5 lead.
Wojciechowski was disqualified from the match with his third ejection just 45 seconds into the fourth quarter, but the Falcons went on to take their biggest lead of the game, 10-5, with 5:31 left on a Dearman goal.
"Our boys played a very good game," Holbrook said. "I was very impressed with how well they played. We did a lot better than our first game."