NORTHWEST GLENDALE — While the Crescenta Valley High boys' water polo team entered Tuesday's Pacific League match at Hoover as the defending league champion with a 26-match winning streak in league, the Falcons also entered with just four total wins on the season and have been conspicuously absent from their customary presence in the CIF Southern Section Division V rankings most of the season.
The Tornadoes on the other hand, boasted the No. 8 ranking in the division, a solid record, as well as one of the most dominant players in the section, and seemed as primed to knock off the Falcons than as they've been any time in recent history.
And yet for the better part of half the match, it was the Falcons playing poised and controlling the match by a slim margin, while Hoover looked rushed and out of rhythm.
"We came out in the first half very excited," said Hoover's All-CIF standout Hakop Kaplanyan, whose team trailed at halftime, but turned the tide in the third quarter behind four of Kaplanyan's goals. "We were just overly excited, which was very unnecessary."
But, behind the lead of Kaplanyan and his match-high 10 goals, the Tornadoes were able to reassert themselves as a contender with an 18-12 win despite the pride of a champion shown by the plucky Falcons.
"We weren't running our offensive system at all and our defensive system wasn't working for us in the first quarter," first-year Hoover Coach Kevin Witt said. "We made some adjustments and our guys picked it up eventually, but it took a while for us to get there."
Hoover (14-3, 3-0 in league) peppered the Falcons' goal with 11shots in the first quarter, but only two of them found the back of the cage and just four were on frame, whereas Crescenta Valley (4-12, 1-1) shot a tidy three of five to take a 3-2 lead into the second quarter. Hoover's defense did keep the Falcons from getting too may opportunities, though, by forcing six turnovers in the first quarter and 10 overall in the first half.
Kaplanyan tied the match at 3 with a steal and counter-attack to begin the second quarter back-and-forth and Jonny Malmrose answered with his second goal of the match on a pass from Leo Rostamian at the 6:33 mark. Hoover then took its first lead of the match, 5-4, with 5:36 left in the half on consecutive goals by Kaplanyan and David Pogosyan (three goals).
But the Falcons kept pace, as Antonio Camarillo scored on two straight turnaround shots before Brian Dertli gave Crescenta Valley its biggest lead of the game, 7-5, with a man-advantage conversion off an assist from Yusef Trad.
While the comeback really began with Kaplanyan's missile from 3/4 of the length of the pool in the waning seconds of the second quarter that made it 7-6, it was a barrage of offense from Kaplanyan in the third quarter that got the Tornadoes going.
"[Before] the second half, I said, 'Hey, this is not the team we are,'" Kaplanyan said. "We just relaxed and settled down and slowly we just played our Hoover water polo game."
Kaplanyan assisted on a game-tying goal by Hakop Baghumian to open the quarter, then pump-faked around his defender and CV goalkeeper Manny Martinez (eight saves) for a go-ahead tally at the 6:18 mark. After a Dertli goal, Pogosyan scored to put Hoover back up by one before Kaplanyan snaked through a triple-team to score and give Hoover an 11-9 lead at the 3:12 mark.
"[Kaplanyan] certainly brought them back in very quickly," said Falcons Coach Jan Sakonju, who said his team had not lost to Hoover in at least his 11 years at the helm. "We were able to contain their offense, but second half I think guys got a little distracted, they lost their focus.
"That's the inexperience coming through, that's been our handicap all season."
Hoover pulled away in the fourth quarter behind goals from Ryan Moguel, Davit Davtyan and Pogosyan.
"We have a lot of good players all over the pool and you can't really afford to double anybody on our team," Witt said.