No. 1 Glendale water polo loses numbers game, wins match

BURBANK — Although it was the Glendale High boys’ water polo team that entered Thursday’s Pacific League match with the loftier ranking and intimidating record, it was Burbank that quite literally had an advantage over the Nitros for most of the afternoon.

The Bulldogs drew a whopping 13 ejections and had plenty of scoring opportunities with a man-advantage during a game that remained close at halftime, but in the end couldn’t come close to fully capitalizing. Buoyed by its quick rotations when short-handed on defense and eight saves from goalie David Tiraturyan, the Nitros only allowed two man-advantage goals and swam off with a 14-10 win to stay unbeaten in league.

“Our six-on-five defense looked pretty strong,” said Glendale Coach Forest Holbrook, whose team, ranked No. 1 in CIF Southern Section Division V, improved to 13-5 and 3-0 in league. “Unfortunately, it had to be strong with 13 ejections against us. Altogether, I’m happy with the game. Burbank is a really good team, they’re ranked high in our division, so beating them obviously is a good thing. It makes us the only undefeated team in league so far.”

Burbank (7-5, 2-2 in league), ranked sixth, trailed throughout and was down by as many as four goals in the first quarter, but rallied to pull within two early in the third quarter, only to see the Nitros widen their lead to 13-7 by the 6:41 mark of the fourth quarter. The final four minutes featured several opportunities for the Bulldogs to close the gap, but Glendale held strong.

With 3:42 left, Glendale’s Arman Momdzhyan, who led all scorers with five goals, came up with a steal to disrupt a man-advantage possession for Burbank. Forty seconds later, Burbank finally did cash in on a six-on-five chance when Dante Nazarian converted down in front of the cage to make it 13-9, but Glendale’s Martin Chatalyan (three goals) answered at the 2:48 mark with a perimeter shot that clanged off the left post straight into the right corner of the cage.

Burbank had another man-advantage going the other way, but rushed the shot and it was blocked easily by Tiraturyan. Zach Card’s attempt that clanged off the post with 1:30 left was essentially the Bulldogs’ last chance, although Sean Savoy scored a late goal for Burbank inside the final minute to make the final score closer.

“Our boys haven’t had this much competition in a long time,” said Burbank Coach Kristina Garcia, who got four goals apiece from Card and Nazarian. “I don’t know if it was in their heads or what, but unfortunately the execution wasn’t there. We worked long and hard for today’s game, but the boys didn’t execute.

“As a whole team, in general, we just haven’t had really good six-on-fives. The execution wasn’t there, unfortunately.”

As effective as the Nitros were on defense when down a man, Chatalyan said it was poor defense overall that put his team in those situations.

“Our defense was really bad today,” Chatalyan said. “We weren’t trying hard enough, we weren’t pressing and we were a bit too aggressive this game, that’s why we were getting too many ejections.”

But Glendale was also getting plenty of goals early, as Momdzhyan scored twice, separated by a David Papazian goal, within the first four minutes for a 3-0 Nitros lead that grew to 4-1 on a shot-clock buzzer-beater by Artak Arzumanyan with 2:08 left in the opening period. Momdzhyan scored once again with 33 seconds left to make it 5-1 going into the second quarter.

“It’s nice to see balanced scoring,” said Holbrook said, who also got three goals from Papazian.

Arzumanyan made it 6-2 with a perimeter goal early in the second, but Burbank came back with two goals from Card and another from Nazarian to cut it to three by the break and Nazarian’s goal off his own steal made it 8-6 with 5:55 to play in the third. Glendale got all the separation it would need, though, with a 3-0 run on tallies from Chatalyan, Arzumanyan and Chatalyan again to lead, 11-6, with 56 seconds left in the third.

“We’ve had the toughest games we’re going to have this year in league, so now we know what we’re up against in the future,” Garcia said.

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