PASADENA — For much of the season, Hoover High boys' water polo Coach Ara Oganesyan's approach has been to emphasize team play over relying on the contributions of one player — even when that one player is standout Hakop Kaplanyan.
Arguably, Hoover had one of its best performances as a team on Wednesday afternoon, but with Kaplanyan being blanketed and facing the formidable challenge of Pasadena Poly, it simply wasn't enough, as the Tornadoes succumbed to the host Panthers, 14-8, in the first round of the CIF Southern Section Division V playoffs, of which Poly is the fourth seed.
"It's been happening all season," said Oganesyan of his Kaplanyan garnering double-teams. "To be successful, it takes a full team effort. The person not double-teamed has to understand he's not being double-teamed and the guy who is being double-teamed has to understand he is being double-teamed."
Kaplanyan was held to just one goal in the match. Perhaps fittingly, it was the final goal scored in the season for Hoover (16-16).
Pasadena Poly Coach Ryan Katsuyama didn't hesitate in admitting his team's defensive game plan was a simple one.
"Stop Hakop," said Katsuyama, whose team is now 20-3. "And we obviously did an outstanding job on him, holding him to one goal."
Kaplanyan, the reigning All-Area Player of the Year who scored a CIF-record 229 goals a season ago, drew the double-team whether he had the ball or not, which was a far cry from a day earlier, as Hoover defeated Cathedral City, 16-12, in a wild-card match on the strength of 15 Kaplanyan goals.
"He's such a dangerous player with or without the ball," Katsuyama said. "In a way, [double-teaming him is] the sign of ultimate respect."
Kaplanyan was visibly frustrated throughout the match, as an often-physical double-team rarely drew any calls and rarely relinquished a quality scoring chance.
"You can't create adversity for the team," Oganesyan said. "There is no room for frustration in CIF. You do what you have to do to win."
It was Davit Davtyan who led Hoover with three goals, while Poly's Henry Pray had a match-high seven.
In the early going, Poly took a quick 2-0 lead before the Tornadoes battled back to tie the match when Kaplanyan, who had five steals, assisted on a pair of Todd Bazik scores as the first period ended at 2-2.
"Todd Bazik played out of his mind," Oganesyan said. "He's going at them with all he has."
As much as anyone, however, Hoover goalie Ron Glandian kept the Tornadoes in the match, particularly in the first quarter, in which he had five of his 13 saves, including one at point-blank range.
"Ron played an amazing [match]," said Oganesyan of Glandian, who also had four steals. "I am so proud of Ron."
Poly found its offensive touch in the second quarter, as a Davo Pogosian goal, one of his two on the day, was the only answer to three Panthers tallies en route to a 6-3 halftime lead.
In the third period, Poly opened up its lead to 8-3 before a Davtyan score with a man-advantage ended the Tornadoes' scoring drought at eight minutes 52 seconds.
Another Davtyan score off a Bazik assist made it 10-5 heading into the final quarter and after Davtyan scored off a Pogosian pass to make it 10-6, life was breathed back into Hoover. It proved to be a last gasp, however, as a three-goal Poly run put the match out of reach.
It was at the end of the run, in which Kaplanyan was stripped of the ball after Oganesyan thought he was fouled, that the Hoover coach received a yellow card in response to some harsh words he had for the officials about their lack of calls.
"He was clearly earning a foul and [he got] nothing," Oganesyan said.
Glandian, Arthur Soghomonyan and Arvin Azarian will be key losses the Tornadoes must overcome, but a good deal of their starters will return. Nevertheless, Oganesyan believes changes must me made.
"We're not a traditional powerhouse, so going into a game, there's no respect given, all the respect has to be earned," Oganesyan said. "These guys have to spend the next year getting stronger, getting faster and getting smarter."