Less than three minutes away from helping the Glendale High boys’ water polo team win the program’s first CIF Southern Section championship, Arman Momdzhyan heard an unpleasant sound and looked over his right shoulder in dismay.
It was the reverberation of the referee’s whistle and signaled the senior utility player had picked up his third exclusion of the tight contest with 2:22 remaining in the fourth quarter. Momdzhyan arrived at the Glendale bench and sat nervously while the Nitros were left to compete without their leading scorer while protecting a two-goal lead against Los Altos in the CIF Southern Section Division V title match at William Woollett Jr. Aquatics Center in Irvine on Nov. 23.
“It was without a doubt the most stressful few minutes of my life,” said Momdzhyan, who finished with a team-high six goals for top-seeded Glendale in a 13-11 win against second-seeded Los Altos. “The whole season was on the line and I just hoped my teammates would pull through and get me off the hook.
“When the final horn sounded, I just breathed a sigh of relief. One of the goals all year was to win CIF and it took a lot of hard work. I went from being stressed to seeing things sink in in a few minutes.”
Momdzhyan got plenty of things accomplished for Glendale during its historic season, including a captivating 20-goal postseason.
In addition to the CIF championship, the first for the school in any sport since 1989, Momdzhyan helped the Nitros go 22-6, 8-0 in the Pacific League. He scored an area-leading 169 goals and was named the Pacific League’s Most Valuable Player and the All-CIF Southern Section Division V Player of the Year.
It is because of those accomplishments that Momdzhyan has been unanimously chosen the 2013 All-Area Boys’ Water Polo Player of the Year by the sports writers and editors of the Glendale News-Press, Burbank Leader and La Cañada Valley Sun.
The Nitros finished as bridesmaids in the Division V title match in 2012, suffering a 12-10 defeat against Pasadena Poly.
Under Glendale fifth-year Coach Forest Holbrook and a talented cast that included Momdzhyan, hole/guard Manuk Piloyan and junior utility Artak Arzumanyan, the Nitros spent the whole season as the top-ranked team in the division and chased after the elusive CIF championship.
“After the first couple of hours following the loss against Poly [in 2012], we started to get ready for 2013,” said Momdzhyan, who finished his three-year career with a whopping 451 goals. “We were motivated even more to go win the title and the practices were always very serious so that we would be ready for the real tough matches that we would have against teams like Los Altos and Crescenta Valley.
“We knew about all the matchups we’d see against most of the teams we would play. We worked on a lot of different things in practice that would have us prepared. The preparation for everything turned out to help us in the long run.”
Momdzhyan saw his career ascend after he joined Glendale for the 2011 season, scoring 146 goals. He then tallied 136 goals in 2012.
“For my sophomore year, I knew most of my teammates and it took awhile to get used to playing at the high school level,” Momdzhyan said. “Last year, we had a great season and had so many excellent players.
“I think we became more of a family last year. We got a lot accomplished, even though we lost in the championship game. It all helped out in the end leading up to this year.”
Holbrook, who has piloted the Nitros to three undefeated league championships in a row, realized Momdzhyan had the ability to match up against some of the top water polo players from Orange to Ventura counties. It would just take some time for Momdzhyan to learn the ropes and ultimately become battled tested.
“Over the last three years, you can see how Arman has become a dominant player,” Holbrook said. “He’s an absolute goal scorer.
“Anywhere he gets the ball, he’s more than capable of scoring. He’s known in Southern California as one of the top water polo players. He was arguably the best at his position in high school water polo this year. We are certainly going to miss him. He’s been a pleasure to coach the last three years and he will only get better moving to college.”
For opposing coaches the past several seasons, it’s been an enormous task planning to defend against Glendale’s multifaceted players.
Yet, talk surrounding Glendale usually drifted toward finding a way to contain Momdzhyan.
“You have to come up with several options to try to contain Arman from scoring goals,” Crescenta Valley Coach Jan Sakonju said. “If we double-teamed him, he would just pop out, catch a high pass because he’s so big and then he would score.
“That’s the kind of player he is. He’s a very smart player and a prolific goal scorer. The legacy he will leave behind is that he changed the face of the Glendale water polo program and even the CV-Glendale rivalry. He also elevated the teams in our league. He’s had a great career.”
Momdzhyan said he will reflect on the ultimate achievement of helping deliver a long-awaited CIF title to Glendale.
The ultimate moment will come when the school unfurls a championship banner honoring the 2013 squad.
“It will be great for the school because it gets the name out,” Momdzhyan said. “It’s going to be something that the school can be proud of.
“We will have all of these memories of awesome players and experiences that we can talk about for a long time.”