Hoover off to 2-0 start with win over Pasadena

NORTHWEST GLENDALE — The Hoover High boys' water polo has had no problem following its coach's offensive philosophy this season.

Tornadoes Coach Kevin Witt has asked his team to be aggressive on offense and to not be timid shooters.

The Tornadoes have listened and have posted positive results.

Hoover took 37 shots, including 31 on goal, in a blistering pace that overwhelmed visiting Pasadena on Tuesday and led to a 14-11 victory in a Pacific League match.

"I'm encouraged to shoot more," said Tornadoes junior driver Hakop Baghumian, who led his team with eight goals. "If you shoot the ball 10 times, you're gong to probably score five of them."

Some of the Tornadoes' shots were not ideal ones that Witt wanted to see, but they put pressure on the Bulldogs. Six-foot-4 junior Ryan Moguel, Hoover's two-meter player, drew defenders in the middle of the pool, opening opportunities for Baghumian and the rest of his teammates. Moguel had four goals and Arik Abedi and Hakop Kaplanyan each had one.

"There is definitely a moral boost to have coach's backing to shoot," Moguel said. "We know that he has the confidence in us to shoot.

"I rely on people like Hakop to press from the outside. Once they see I'm open, they can give me the ball. It's very much a give and take between Hakop and me."

A number of Hoover's first-quarter shots were off target, as Pasadena built a 3-1 lead four minutes into the period. Pasadena's Matthew Klein, who had a team-high four goals, scored half of his goals in the first three minutes.

Abedi's score cut the Bulldogs' lead to one, and Baghumian and Moguel combined to score the next nine goals. Hoover outscored Pasadena by five goals from the end of the first quarter to the last minute of the third, when Kaplanyan's score gave the Tornadoes a 12-7 lead.

"They're really good shooters," said Pasadena Coach Neil Esser, whose team was coming off an overtime upset win over Burbank on Tuesday, when Hoover opened with a win over Arcadia. "We couldn't stop them from getting in their sets in the first three quarters."

Pasadena scored two quick goals to start the fourth, including one from Cooper Horn (two goals), but it did not get closer than three. Julian Baker and Marcus Gonzalez had two goals apiece for the Bulldogs, who surprised the Tornadoes with their level of play.

"We didn't assess the other players as well as we should have," Baghumian said.

Even though the Tornadoes took the Bulldogs (11-5, 1-1 in league) lightly to start the match, they had enough strength to improve to 11-6, 2-0, becoming the only team to start Pacific League play with two consecutive wins so far this season, thanks to its offense, as well as what Witt says might be one of the best defenses in the area.

"Our two-meter defense with Hakop [Baghumian] is one of the best in the league, if not CIF," Witt said. "On offense, they're good shooters. If they have an open shot, I tell them to take it. Right now, they're aggressive and I love it."

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