PASADENA — Cross-town rivals Hoover and Glendale highs traveled east for a boys’ water polo Pacific League matchup in the pool at Pasadena City College in the final regular-season contest in league competition for both squads.
The host Nitros came in with the chance to finish their Pacific League schedule undefeated and, despite playing with a self-diagnosed lack of focus, they came through with a 19-10 victory late Wednesday afternoon.
“We weren’t focused enough,” Nitro Artak Arzumanyan said. “I mean, it is good that we won. We beat the rival team and that is always good, but we could have beat them by more. We could have played a much better game as a team. ... We did the bare minimum that we could do to win and that was bad on our part.”
With the win, Glendale (15-6, 6-0), two-time defending champion in the Pacific, completes regular-season league play with a perfect record for the third straight season.
“This is our third straight season going undefeated, which is pretty exciting,” fifth-year coach Forest Holbrook said. “We’ve got a big game on Friday against Los Altos; I’m hoping that our team came out a little rusty in this one because they are focusing on that. Just a weird game for us today.”
Glendale jumped out early and, by the end, the Nitros had doubled up Hoover (6-13, 2-4) on the scoreboard, leading, 4-2, after one quarter. Glendale’s Artak Arzumanyan’s steal and subsequent pass to Manuk Piloyan set up a one-on-one chance against Hoover goalkeeper David Petrosyan, which the junior converted for the game’s first score. Barely a minute later, Arzumanyan took a long outlet pass from Arman Momdzhyan and scored on a skip shot for a two-goal advantage early in the first.
Tornado Hakop Baghumian then scored the first of his four goals at the 3:23 mark after a Glendale foul left him an open look at the cage, cutting the lead to 2-1. However, a minute later, Momdzhyan scored on a five-meter penalty shot. In the final two minutes, the teams traded goals, with Baghumian and then Piloyan each getting their second goals.
The rest of the game would mirror the first period, with Piloyan (five goals), Momdzhyan (six goals), and Arzumanyan accounting for a the bulk of Glendale’s offense.
Throughout the contest, the Nitros, while facing the Hoover attack, would send a player back toward the other end of the pool looking to get a favorable matchup in space as soon as the ball went over to Glendale.
“If we get a mismatch with players sometimes we’ll send someone early, “ Holbrook said.
Arzumanyan finished with a game-high seven goals, including three in the second period, in which Glendale, top-ranked in CIF-Southern Section Division V, outscored Hoover, 5-1. However, it was Momdzhyan who had the most stylish score of the game in the period, when the senior spun around 360 degrees, simultaneously whipping a back-handed shot along the top of the water and into the back of the net.
“I practice that shot. I practice it a lot,” Momdzhyan said. “My coach gets mad at me every time I if I miss it. ... I had to let it go, it looked good.”
The teams combined for four goals in the first 1:17 of the third period. The first was by Arzumanyan on a long skip shot 15 seconds in. Tornado Hakop Kaplanyan (two goals) answered 13 seconds later, before Momdzhyan netted two scores 30 seconds apart. The second came after the senior swam away from his defensive duties to cherry-pick the opposite goal and then beat the lone defender who had joined him after an outlet pass following a Hoover miss.
“I was shocked. [Glendale was] not just leaving at the end of the shot clock. They would leave at the beginning and in the middle,” Hoover Coach Kevin Witt said. “They left basically at any point. They basically would not play defense on certain possessions just to isolate early on their possessions.”
Hoover pushed to get back into it by scoring the next three goals, with two coming from freshman Harout Ashkharian, who would finish sharing the team-high with four goals. However, 12-7 would be as close as Hoover would get, as the Nitros scored the final two of the period to go up, 14-7, after three quarters played.
Glendale won the final period, 5-3, with Nitro Levon Gevorkyan scoring the final goal of the match with 42 seconds to go.
“Our goal every game is to hold the other team to less than eight goals and I was not happy at all with how many goals were scored,” Holbrook said. “I know we got the win, but I thought it was a pretty sloppy game on our part as far as defense goes.”