BURBANK — Glendale High’s girls’ water polo team came back in the fourth quarter of the championship game at the fifth annual Burbank Tournament against San Marino only to see the contest tied in the final minute on a five-meter penalty.
“It was a little upsetting to get that five-meter called, but I didn’t even think about winning,” Nitro assistant Casey Sripramong, who led the team on Saturday, said. “I knew they had the skills to win.”
In sudden-death overtime, the Nitros pulled through on a Naira Sarkian goal and Glendale won, 8-7, over the Titans to claim the title.
“I knew we could finish in the end because we always work hard to put the ball in the cage,” said Glendale’s Melanie Aghazarian, who had two goals in the final.
Glendale (4-0), which annihilated Mayfield, 16-4, earlier in the day to reach the final game, trailed, 6-5, against San Marino after three quarters. In the first minute of the fourth, Vehik Golabi tied the contest at 6 on a skip-shot goal from out wide. Just 39 seconds later, Aghazarian lobbed home her second goal of the game to put Glendale up.
The lead held until the game’s final minute of regulation. With the Nitros 30 seconds from the win, Golabi was given an exclusion and, when she swam in front of the ongoing action on the way to the designated area, the officials ruled she’d affected play and awarded San Marino (6-2) a penalty try. Titan Kate Scanelle promptly converted the five-meter penalty shot to tie the contest and send it to extra time.
The Nitros kept their composure and, 1:28 into overtime, Sarkian raised up and skipped a long-range shot for her third goal and the tournament victory.
In the first quarter, Glendale jumped out quickly for a 2-0 lead. Sarkian got it started with her first goal, which Aghazarian assisted on. Aghazarian then scored one of her own 1:23 later. Sarkian would add another first-quarter score, but her team held a slim 3-2 advantage after one.
The teams traded goals in the second to go into the break with San Marino trailing, 4-3. Nitro Nineli Zargarian got the first of the goals, followed by Scanelle’s first of her team-leading three scores.
San Marino pulled ahead in the third period. Two of three San Marino goals in the frame came when the Titans leaked an attacker out early as the teams transitioned from offense to defense. Glendale briefly tied the game at 5 on a Rima Gasparyan goal, but Scanelle scored in the final minute to give the Titans a 6-5 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
Making the Nitros’ tournament success all the more impressive is that they did it without the presence of head coach Forest Holbrook at either of Saturday’s matchups. Due to being ejected from Glendale’s win over West Torrance the night before, Holbrook was suspended for the game against Mayfield. Holbrook was eligible to return for the final, but was not at poolside as he attended an event elsewhere. This was always the plan according to Sripramong, who guided the Nitros in Holbrook’s absence. Thus, so far this season Holbrook has been poolside for 28:42 of the 97:28 minutes his squad played on the way to the title.
However, Glendale came perilously close to running out of coaches in the first contest Saturday. Sripramong was issued a yellow card in the first half and, with 2:10 left in the third quarter with her team up, 11-3, over Mayfield, the officials stopped the contest to go over and caution her about her continued verbalization of complaints. Another yellow would have brought an ejection and resulted in the Nitros forfeiting the game.
“I learned I just need to go with whatever they give up and just make the best out of it ,” Sripramong said. “I went over and apologized after and said I’d calm down.”
In the convincing win, Golabi, Sarkian, and Gasparyan all had three goals, but it was the defense that made the difference.
“Our excellent press kind of intimidates [opponents] from making offensive moves,” Sripramong said. “Our goal is defense.”
The other local entries in the tournament did not fare as well as the champion Nitros. Hoover dropped both its Saturday games, falling, 16-12, to Notre Dame and then to West Torrance, 8-4.
Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy (4-3) did slightly better, splitting its games on Saturday. The Tologs first won by downing West, 10-4. Then, against fellow Mission league member Notre Dame, they lost, 8-4, in a game in which FSHA Coach Carlos Ponce said they “held a little back” so as not to give the Knights too much to go on when they meet in league play.
But in the end it was Glendale that took home the tournament title, with Aghazarian and Sarkian being named the event’s co-most valuable players.
“We have the mentality of just winning,” Aghazarian said. “We’re very competitive people and we always just want to finish first.”