All systems go for Glendale High water polo's Manuk Piloyan

Playing with an edge while committed to his respective roles on offense and defense has made Manuk Piloyan symbolic of what the Glendale High boys’ water polo team strives to be on a match-by-match basis.

He’s quick to come up with a steal while playing tenacious defense at hole/guard and then promptly leads a counterattack that might wind up with the Nitros getting a quality scoring opportunity. There’s always a course of action for Piloyan, a junior, no matter what’s at stake during a contest.

Piloyan pays equal attention to detail at both ends of the pool, making him a threat at all times.

“If I can play anywhere, I’ll play it,” said Piloyan, a third-year varsity athlete. “You have to go out there and be ready for anything, especially during the playoffs.

“We have a lot of players who can do different things. You try to lead the way. In the first half, I focus mostly on defense and, in the second half, I try to get more involved on offense.”

The method of operation has worked out rather well for Piloyan and the Nitros, who will meet Los Altos at 2:30 p.m. Saturday in the CIF Southern Section Division V championship match at William Woollett Jr. Aquatics Center in Irvine.

The top-seeded Nitros (21-6) will make their second straight appearance in the title contest and attempt to win the program’s first CIF crown. Second-seeded Los Altos (21-10) will face Glendale for the third time this season with the Nitros having won the first two meetings.

The Nitros have a host of talented players in the mix, including Arman Momdzhyan and Artak Arzumanyan, who draw their share of attention from the opposition. With Piloyan, it’s unpredictable when he’ll make the swift transition from defense to offense to further ignite Glendale’s quick-strike attack.

Piloyan provides the Nitros, who won their third straight undefeated Pacific League championship, with an abundance of energy. For the most part, he’s developed a quiet self reliance that he can get the job done each match.

“When I first started playing [at Glendale], I would get frustrated if we were scored on,” Piloyan said. “Over time, I learned to keep calm and not show too much emotion.

“It’s just something that you pick up along the way. You work on different things and try to better yourself. You don’t pay attention to the crowd. You just focus on what you need to do out there.”

He’s fit in nicely and brought in an added dimension during his stint with the Nitros, who will look to win the school’s first CIF championship since 1989.

In three postseason matches, Piloyan has registered 15 of Glendale’s 55 goals. Along the way, the Nitros have recorded playoff victories against California, Webb and Walnut.

During a quarterfinal match against Webb at Burbank High on Saturday, Piloyan made quite a difference. With the scored knotted at 9 early in the third quarter, Piloyan took charge to keep the Nitros’ championship aspirations alive.

He scored four unanswered goals in less than four minutes to give Glendale a 13-9 advantage. Glendale also received four steals from Piloyan en route to a 20-14 victory.

Piloyan followed up with three goals in Glendale’s 16-12 semifinal win against Walnut on Wednesday at Mount San Antonio College.

Piloyan’s efforts have caught the attention of his teammates and coach Forest Holbrook, who took over the program in 2009.

“He’s such a gifted and smart player,” Holbrook said. “He knows exactly how to stop the other team’s best player and then go right down the other end and score some big goals.

“It’s great when you have somebody who can do those kinds of things. He’s incredibly talented at both ends. He can play great defense and he’s also excited about taking the big shots.”

Momdzhyan, a senior utility player, said Piloyan is the backbone of the Nitros.

“He’s just so explosive and quick,” Momdzhyan said. “He can match up well defensively and we know he can do the job all the time.

“He’s one of biggest offensive threats. Teams have to plan their game around him.”

Piloyan and the Nitros would like nothing more than to close out the season with a victory Saturday and eliminate the sting from last season’s 12-10 loss to Pasadena Poly in the championship match.

“It would be great to go out there and win it all,” Piloyan said. “I know what I need to do.

“We feel like we have the team that can do it.”

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