While technically a prize up for grabs among seven squads, the Pacific League boys' water polo title turned out to be a two-team race between archrivals Glendale High and Hoover.
The Nitros and Tornadoes' two exciting head-to-head meetings directly decided the league championship, with Glendale prevailing in both to finish unbeaten in league.
When the league's seven coaches recently convened to assemble the all-league team, Glendale landed five players on the list, including three first-teamers, and saw Coach Forest Holbrook receive his first Coach of the Year nod.
Second-place Hoover got its share of recognition, as well, with standout senior utility Hakop Kaplanyan garnering his second straight Pacific League Player of the Year honor to lead a league-best six total selections for his team.
"I'm excited to hear that news. …I like it," Kaplanyan said of receiving his second straight player of the year honor after leading the Tornadoes (17-7) to a 6-2 record in league. "There's no doubt I'm happy with how my team did this year and the accomplishments we had. We made Hoover history and that's all we needed. I'm happy for the effort my team put in and I know everybody played their hearts out every single game."
Kaplanyan, the two-time reigning All-Area Player of the Year scored 139 goals, recorded 47 assists and notched 103 steals, while forcing opposing teams to game plan around his dynamic offensive skills and athletic prowess.
"It was obviously very nice having him on my team," first-year Hoover Coach Kevin Witt said of Kaplanyan. "He's a tremendous talent and a phenomenal athlete, one of the best overall athletes that I've ever had the pleasure of coaching. He really did some special things for us and the way he led our team and the way he pushed not only himself, but his teammates really helped us out throughout the middle and end of our season."
Glendale High's trio of first-team recipients consisted of senior center/guard/goalkeeper David Grigorian, senior set/defender Shant Tokatyan and sophomore driver Arman Momdzhyan.
Momdzhyan led the Nitros with 146 goals and drew 58 ejections, while Tokatyan had a team-best 154 steals to go along with 58 goals. Grigorian showed his versatility by playing in goal, where he recorded 142 saves, and in the field, where he scored 28 goals and assisted on 29 more.
Glendale also saw junior driver David Papazian (84 goals, 35 assists) earn a second-team selection and freshman utility Manuk Piloyan (67 goals, 29 assists) garner honorable mention.
"It's a huge honor when the coaches recognize our players, especially in our league, we've got such a talented league," said Holbrook, who coached the Nitros to a 22-8 record with an 8-0 league mark. "It was a real fun season and it's nice when the boys at Glendale are able to be recognized after they have a great season."
Hoover's two first-team nods went to senior hole/guard David Pogosian, who finished with 58 goals, 25 assists and 72 steals and senior goalkeeper Sevada Khodaverdi, who tallied 196 saves and 29 steals.
Senior driver Vahe Avalyan (40 goals, 19 assists and 45 steals) and sophomore utility defender Hakop Baghumian earned second-team recognition and an honorable mention went to sophomore two-meter Ryan Moguel.
"We had a large group of seniors," Witt said. "When you're dealing with high school programs that do have to play some 14- and 15-year-olds up on varsity, it really is an advantage to have experienced players that have played three or four-plus seasons, been through varsity and understand the long haul of the season as far as exactly how much work and dedication and all-around effort it takes to be successful."
Crescenta Valley (10-19), which finished third in league at 5-3, had a first-teamer in senior goalkeeper Manny Martinez, a second-teamer in junior hole/set Antonio Camarillo (46 goals) and an honorable mention in senior utility Jonny Malmrose (35 goals).
"He was the best player on our team and he was the foundation of our defense," Sakonju said of Martinez, who recorded 185 saves. "He allowed us to do zone defenses so we weren't caught one one one with anybody and we needed that in order to run the different zones.
"Where Manny had a huge impact on the defensive end, Antonio was our anchor for offense. He evolved into a varsity hole/set. …Jonny was a hard worker, constantly improving, pays attention in practice, a great role model and teammate. He does all the right things that you want."
The lone Burbank-area first-team selection was Burbank junior driver/hole guard Zach Card. Card led Burbank with 73 goals to go along with 92 steals and 60 assists.
"Zach is best as a distributor," said Burbank Coach James Berman, whose team placed fourth in league. "He has the skills as a scorer, but he is the type of player who is willing to give up the ball and he makes the other players around him better. But if we are in need of a last shot, we can always give it to Zach."
Senior driver Sam Akopian (51 goals) was an honorable mention selection for Burbank.
Burroughs had a second-team honoree in junior goalkeeper Daniel Mairena and sophomore utility player Casey Ueno was an honorable mention pick.