LA MIRADA — With every comeback mounted against the defending CIF champion, the Glendale High boys' water polo team steadily gained confidence.
The lone ingredient Glendale lacked in the end was championship pedigree, something it said proved to be the major difference against La Serna on Saturday in a CIF Southern Section Division V quarterfinal match. It was the second season in a row in which La Serna ousted the Nitros in the quarterfinals.
After overcoming six deficits in regulation, Glendale's superb season came to an end with a 12-10 overtime loss against fourth-seeded La Serna at La Mirada Regional Aquatics Center.
Glendale (22-8) knotted the game at 9 on a five-meter goal by Martin Chatalyan with seven seconds left in the fourth quarter to send the match into overtime sessions before La Serna's experience proved to be the prevailing factor.
"It took a lot of heart to get back and tie them," said Glendale Coach Forest Holbrook, whose team won its first Pacific League championship since 2002 before opening the playoffs Wednesday with a 20-10 win against Webb. "It's hard to play when you have to come back so many times.
"In the first part of the overtime, we had to focus on defense because that's when things can be decided most of the time."
La Serna (17-14), which opened the playoffs with an 11-8 win against Crescenta Valley and will next meet top-seeded Bonita or Chadwick in a semifinal match at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at Mount San Antonio College, got a goal apiece 42 seconds apart from Oliver Carter and Matthew Skinas to take an 11-9 lead late in the first half of overtime.
Chatalyan scored to pull the Nitros to within 11-10 with 28 seconds left in the first half of overtime before Mitchel Embrey capped the scoring 27 seconds later with a man-advantage goal.
Glendale sophomore driver Armand Momdzhyan said the Nitros ran out of steam in overtime.
"We helped each other out in the second half to get back into the game," said Momdzhyan, who paced the Nitros with a team-leading five goals. "They then get those two goals [to start overt overtime] and that made it tough.
"We had to keep going. We played a great team and they just got the upper hand with those two goals."
La Serna Coach Jeff Padgett said his team's experience from winning a title last season proved to be valuable Saturday.
"Regardless of last year, we have the experience, but we had to go out there and play our game by pressuring hard on defense and getting counter-attacks," said Padgett, whose team posted a 12-11 win against Glendale in a Villa Park Tournament match in October. "The focus was to be able to play our game.
"Give credit to Glendale for battling back."
Embrey gave the Lancers, who won the Del Rio League championship, a 1-0 lead midway in the first quarter. Momdzhyan tied it with eight seconds left in the opening quarter.
Carter made it 2-1 with 6:41 remaining in the second quarter. The Nitros knotted it at 2 on a goal by Momdzhyan with 5:19 left and then took a 3-2 lead when Vahagn Gharagozyan scored with 3:41 remaining. Skimas tied it at 3 with 2:24 left in the first half.
La Serna then scored three goals 74 seconds apart to take a 6-3 advantage early in the third quarter. Grant Marcy made it 4-3 and Embrey followed with two straight scores.
The Nitros began their valiant comeback, as Momdzhyan brought them to within 6-4 with 4:56 left. Gharagozyan made it 6-5 with 1:59 remaining in the third quarter.
Glendale tied the match at 6 with 6:12 left in the fourth quarter. After the Lancers took a 7-6 lead with 5:56 left on a goal by Kevin Rubio, the Nitros responded when Momdzhyan registered a steal and scored to make it 7-7 with 5:33 left.
A goal by Carter made it 8-7 with 5:22 remaining. Glendale got a man-advantage goal from David Papazian to make it 8-8 with 1:24 left. Embrey's long-distance shot gave the Lancers a 9-8 lead with 23 seconds remaining.
"They got some goals of counters and that helped them out a lot," Holbrook said. "It's tough to lose like that because we had been winning all season long.
"Unfortunately, only one team can win."