Glendale water polo gives no ground to Burbank

BURBANK — In losing by four goals the first time the two teams met in Pacific League play, the Burbank High boys’ water polo team had come as close as any team in league to knocking off the defending-champion Glendale High Nitros.

The Bulldogs would get one last chance to dethrone Glendale Thursday night in the league championship game, symbolically, at least, since the Nitros had already reached the threshold of regular-season and tournament win points to clinch their second outright title in a row.

But Glendale, which will enter the upcoming CIF Southern Section Division V playoffs likely as the No. 1 seed, had designs on making a statement of its own in dominating the sixth-ranked Bulldogs, 17-8, to complete an 8-0 run through league.

“It was very important not to lose because of our seed in CIF,” said Glendale’s Martin Chatalyan, who led all scorers with five goals. “We can’t lose, we didn’t want to lose.

“We feel really good [going into playoffs], really pumped up and ready.”

Glendale (19-5) scored five unanswered goals over the last 5:10 of the opening period to turn a 1-0 deficit into a 5-1 advantage and did it by getting everyone involved in the scoring. Arman Momdzhyan (three goals) opened scoring for the Nitros on a lay-in after beating Burbank goalkeeper Derek Baer to a loose ball in front of the cage before Levon Gevorkyan rebounded his own shot on a Baer save and lobbed it back in at the 4:24 mark. Chatalyan scored on a lob with 2:21 left in the first and Manuk Piloyan (two goals) scored twice before the quarter was out on a five-meter shot and a breakaway.

Burbank (13-7, 5-3) would fail to generate any offensive momentum despite the scoring the first goal of the first, third and fourth quarter, although the second period was all Nitros early. Glendale scored four of the second period’s first five goals, starting with David Papazian’s six-on-five advantage conversion.

“No team wants that [slow start], but with this team, because we have that [tendency], we try to just come out stronger,” said Burbank Coach Kristina Garcia, whose team was led by four goals from Zach Card. “That first goal was ours, we scored the first goal and from there our own momentum could have helped us, but unfortunately we didn’t keep it and we let Glendale do what they do best. They pass it around, get a nice shot and score.”

Chatalyan put Glendale up, 7-2, with 4:18 to play in the second quarter before Burbank’s Dante Nazarian stopped the run with a successful five-meter shot. As in the teams’ first meeting on Oct. 11, Glendale gave the Bulldogs plenty of man-advantage opportunities, but once again, the Nitros’ defense seemed to intensify when short-handed.

Aside from the aforementioned five-meter, Glendale suffered eight ejections, but Burbank’s offense couldn’t convert on any.

“We have a lot of confidence because our coach has been making us practice six-on-five defense every day,” Chatalyan said.

“Maybe the team was just overwhelmed with so much six-on-five information that we fell short again,” Garcia said. “It’s all in their mentality. We’re playing Glendale, so these guys do get scared.

“That’s what it was today; hesitating.

Glendale grew its 10-3 halftime lead into a 13-5 advantage going into the fourth, where the Bulldogs showed some spark early, scoring the quarter’s first two goals on a steal and breakaway by Card, followed by another finish from Card assisted by Daniel Gonzalez off a Gonzalez steal to pull within 13-7.

Burbank would get within 14-8 with 4:12 left, but Glendale closed out the match with goals from Artak Arzumyan (twice) and Harut Bandikyan.

“Second half we picked up a little bit more, but again just fell short,” Garcia said.

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