Glendale water polo finds stride in CIF opener

BURBANK — The Glendale High boys’ water polo team jumped out to a quick five-goal lead in the opening minutes of its CIF Southern Section Division V first-round match Wednesday against JW North of Riverside.

But then the Nitros backed off a bit, giving the Huskies a chance to get back into the contest. The team’s propensity to not keep up the pressure on an opponent once it gets ahead is a problem that Nitros Coach Forest Holbrook said his squad has been facing all season.

Fortunately for Glendale, it had enough talent to stave off a comeback by JW North, as the Nitros regrouped and were able to roll to a 19-10 victory at Burbank High.

“I think the boys might have just lost a little focus in that first quarter,” said Holbrook, whose team is fresh off a Pacific League championship. “That is something that we’ve been struggling with all season where we get up on a team by five or 10 goals and they don’t keep it going.

“I think today the guys weren’t trying as much at times and they’re trying to do something fancy and take the fancy shots.”

The win puts the No. 1-ranked Nitros (19-5) into the quarterfinals, which will take place Saturday. Glendale will take on Los Altos, which defeated El Rancho, 21-6. The Nitros, who own a win over the Conquerors, will travel to face Los Altos at a time to be determined.

Being the No. 1 seed in the division, Holbrook said the Nitros are focused on representing that top ranking and realize that other teams are gunning for them.

“We don’t forget we’re No. 1 at all,” he said. “We know there’s a lot of pressure when you’re the No. 1. When you’re No. 4 or No. 5, you’ve really got nothing to lose. But when you’re No. 1 there are a lot of expectations. If might be difficult for the guys if they were ranked No. 1 at this point for the first time this season. But we’ve been ranked there so long there’s a certain confidence they have at this point.”

The Nitros received a standout performance from Arman Momdzhyan, who tallied a match-high six goals. Teammate Manuk Piloyan added five and Levon Gevorkyan and Atak Arzumanyan had two each. Piloyan also had five steals.

Glendale came out in the opening moments of the match with a barrage of scoring opportunities. However, the Nitros converted just three of their first nine shot attempts to take a 3-0 advantage. When Momdzhyan scored with 2:30 left in the opening stanza, the Nitros had a 5-0 lead.

Trailing, 6-2, after the first quarter, JW North (12-10) — which earned an at-large berth out of the Inland Valley League — scored the first goal of the second to cut the deficit down to three.

That seemed to finally wake up the Nitros, as they turned up the pressure the remainder of the quarter, scoring five goals on their first six shots. Glendale outscored the Huskies, 9-2, in the second to take a 14-4 lead into halftime.

“We came in scared a bit, and a lot of emotions were going on in our heads at the beginning,” Momdzhyan said. “But I think we came out after that first quarter and we started playing the way that we know that we can play.”

The third quarter was a defensive affair, as both teams scored one goal each and Glendale went into the fourth with a comfortable 15-5 cushion.

Holbrook cleared his bench in the fourth, allowing the Huskies to win the quarter.

“It was nice to be able to reward our hard-working subs with some playing time,” Holbrook said.

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