NORTHWEST GLENDALE — With both Pacific League and Rio Hondo League play on the horizon, Tuesday's home opener for Hoover High against San Marino was a chance for both squads to get a read on where they are as they head into next week's crucial point of the season.
Titans Coach Mark Barr and Tornadoes Coach Kevin Witt both came away speaking about how their teams still needed to improve.
But it was clear after Tuesday afternoon that Hoover has asserted itself as a player in the Pacific League and CIF Southern Section Division V, as the Tornadoes throttled the Titans, 22-4, in a nonleague meeting.
Two-time reigning All-Area Boys' Water Polo Player of the Year Hakop Kaplanyan keyed the Tornadoes' blitz, scoring a match-high nine goals, including a four-goal output in the opening quarter, as Hoover raced out to a commanding 7-0 bulge.
"We didn't come out as aggressively as we could've," said Barr, whose team dropped to 4-9 on the season. "That said, Hoover's a really good team, they're probably a [CIF playoff] quarterfinalist or even a semifinalist."
Ranked ninth in the latest Division V poll, the Tornadoes are off to a 10-3 start under Witt, a first-year coach who was a standout for rival Glendale High before going on to a much ballyhooed career at Loyola Marymount University and then with the United States national team.
Thus far, the transition period for the new coach and the team seems to be progressing well.
"We're definitely better than we were at the beginning of the year," Witt said. "Every time there's a coaching change, it's gonna be tough for kids to adjust. But they're coming along."
Added Kaplanyan: "Kevin Witt and I have a lot of chemistry together. It's really easy playing under his rules and his system."
One aspect Witt is stressing improvement in is the Tornadoes' defense and, in particular, pressuring the ball. But on Tuesday, the Tornadoes' pressure was stifling for the Titans, who aided matters with errant shots.
"They're very quick, they're physically bigger than us, but we didn't help ourselves by not putting the ball on target," said Barr, who got goals from Kevin Fong, Nicholas Lakon, Alex Kang and Eric Thvedt.
Fong's tally was the Titans' first, coming with 6:28 left in the second period, but the Tornadoes would score the next 10 goals, as Hoover's defense held the Titans scoreless for a span of 14:22 before Laken's tally began a three-goal fourth quarter for the Titans.
Though Kaplanyan scored the bulk of his team's goals, Witt still got scoring contributions from nine Tornadoes, with Vahe Avelian and Jake Noshadian scoring three each and Ryan Moguel notching a pair of scores. David Daityan, Thomas Bazkyan, Todd Bazik, David Pogosian and Matthew Reyes had single tallies.
Hoover was set for a weekend tournament to lead it into next week's league start, but due to conflicts with testing, Witt decided to pull his team out.
"We still need a lot of work," Kaplanyan said. "It would've been nice to play in the tournament, but, overall, if we just try hard at practice, show up at every practice, I think we'll be ready and good to go in league."
San Marino will have the South Bay Tournament to further work out some kinks before splashing down in league play next week.
Said Barr: "Hopefully we can get some of these things ironed out on the weekend and be ready to play."