Nitros bring home CIF title at long last

It was a moment that hadn't occurred in nearly 25 years - a Glendale High sports team receiving a CIF championship plaque and hoisting it in the air while celebrating in front of its ardent fans.

Occasionally, the Nitros got close to winning a title by advancing to the semifinals or finals. However, they would go on to endure their share of heartbreak.

Heartbreak turned into jubilation late Saturday afternoon when top-seeded Glendale posted a 13-11 victory against second-seeded Los Altos in the CIF Southern Section Division V championship match at William Woollett Jr. Aquatics Center.

Glendale won its first boys' water polo crown and became the first Nitros team to win a CIF title since the boys' volleyball squad beat Harvard-Westlake in 1989.

For those affiliated with the school for more than 20 years, like Pat Lancaster, a former boys' water polo coach and the school's current athletic director, elation never felt finer.

“I've been here at Glendale since 1990,” Lancaster said following a team celebration ceremony on the pool deck. “I coached the boys' water polo team [for three stints] and we had some very good teams along the way.

“With this team, they have a very strong starting lineup and a stud at every single position. They learned what it takes to win. For the school, this is one for the history books. It's great not only for the team, but for the school and community.”

Glendale (22-6) suffered a 12-10 loss to Pasadena Poly in the championship match last season at the same venue. The Nitros, who won their third straight undefeated Pacific League championship, overcame the sting from that defeat and channeled their attention to Los Altos (21-11).

Glendale featured a strong nucleus of talent that included Arman Momdzhyan, Manuk Piloyan and Artak Arzumanyan to spearhead a championship drive under the guidance of fifth-year coach Forest Holbrook.

For Momdzhyan, a senior utility player, Saturday's victory wrapped up 12 months of hard work and a moment he could savor.

“We wanted to come out and make history,” said Momdzhyan, who finished with a team-high six goals before picking up his third ejection with less than three minutes remaining in the fourth quarter and the Nitros clinging to a 12-10 advantage. “We've won league, but we wanted to do something even better.

“We wanted to win this championship not only for the team, but for the school. Now, we can all enjoy it. We will also get a [championship] banner that we can hang in the gym.”

Serving as an assistant to Holbrook the past two seasons has been Gor Asryan, a former four-year water polo player at Glendale who graduated in 2011.

Asryan was overcome with emotion shortly after the final horn sounded and the team spilled into the pool to celebrate.

“I grew up with most of these guys,” said Asryan, a hole/set and former all-league honoree. “We had some similar teams to this one, but we just couldn't get over the hump.

“With this group, they knew how to get the job done and finish when they had to. In the fourth quarter, I told Arman and Manuk that this was our game to win.”

Holbrook and the Nitros encountered a tough battle with Los Altos, which won the Hacienda League championship. The teams met twice during the regular season, with the Nitros winning both times.

Holbrook, who went to nearby El Toro High, said he was eager to see what kind of test the Nitros would receive from the Conquerors.

“They have such a talented team,” said Holbrook, a history teacher at Glendale. “We knew that we were going to have to play our best to win.

“Before the season began, I wasn't sure if we could put it all together. We lost some key players to graduation and you hear that if Arman and Manuk could be stopped then the team could be stopped. This is just an awesome experience and moment we can all share together.”

Glendale had plenty of players who were up to the task to step up and contribute.
Lancaster said he had an inkling the boys' water polo team would be the one to end the school's championship drought.

“It's all now come together,” Lancaster said. “We overcame that tough loss last year.
“We had something to build on. Winning a CIF championship is something you try to strive for. They were able to do it.”

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