Glendale polo uses defense to turn back rival Hoover

GLENDALE — The Glendale High girls' water polo squad welcomed rival Hoover into its pool for the Nitros' Pacific League home opener, and both sides were eager for the matchup Thursday.

"The Glendale-Hoover game is just a really exciting game every year," Glendale Coach Forest Holbrook said. "Both teams are always very pumped up for it. It's one they look forward to."

PHOTOS: Glendale vs. Hoover league girls' water polo

Once the action got underway, the home team proved dominant, riding two five-goal scorers and a defense that smothered the Tornadoes on the press to win handily, 15-4, and remain perfect in early league play.

Glendale (9-2, 2-0 in league) was led on offense by a pair of juniors. Both members of the class of 2015, Vehik Golabi and Rima Gasparyan tallied five goals apiece to lead all players.

"It's exciting for us because they are both very talented junior players," Holbrook said. "It seems like a lot of times our seniors lead us, [so] it's nice to have that diversified scoring on the team."

Gasparyan and Golabi combined to score all six of the Nitros' goals in the third period that saw Glendale outscore Hoover, 6-1, and carry a 14-3 advantage into the final quarter. Golabi had four in the third to add to the one she got to start the scoring in the second period.

Although Glendale enjoyed success on offense, the team's focus was more on the defensive end of the pool.

"Our coaches have been really pushing us to do strong defense and not really focused on offense," Golabi said, "because if the other team doesn't score as much we don't have to shoot as much either, so we try to do strong defense."

Gasparyan put in the other two goals in the third period. The junior was the only player to score in each quarter as she logged single scores in the first and second, as well as her team's lone goal in the fourth.

"We thought now is the time to step it up, since next year is going to be our senior year," Gasparyan said.

Hoover (2-7, 0-3) struggled throughout the contest against the pressing defense of the Nitros. The only real threat on offense was Maggie Amirian, who led her team with three goals.

"I think the best teams have a really good press," Holbrook said. "With very good set defensive players like Naira Sarkian and Melanie [Aghazarian], it allows us to press very hard and know that we can make it really make it difficult for the other team."

Lalageh Heneton scored Hoover's other goal in the fourth quarter, as both teams played out the contest, although the outcome had long since been determined.

"It hurts to lose to our rival like this," Hoover Coach Kevin Witt said. "I know the girls put a lot of effort and energy into it, but I really think we did some good things today. I already mentioned it to them; I think we have good building blocks going forward, so I just want to keep this momentum going."

After Glendale scored the first seven goals of the contest, Amirian, a sophomore, finally got the visitors on the board with two consecutive goals with just over two minutes to go before halftime. The first came with on a six-on-five situation following a save by Nitro first-half goalkeeper Shushanik Gabrielyan. But the rebound was collected by Amirian and sent to the back of the net. Her second goal came soon after on a shot from center.

The sophomore also scored her team's only goal in the third, on a long shot with the shot clock winding down.

"Defense is key, offense will come," Gasparyan said. "Without defense we wouldn't have been able to do the stuff we did today."

Glendale took control early, building a 4-0 advantage after the first quarter. Senior Melanie Aghazarian got it started with a successful lob shot with 5:22 on the clock.

Senior Naira Sarkian, who had two scores in the second quarter, assisted on the next two scores in the first, both coming after a Tornado ejection. Her first came on a pass that set Gasparyan up for her first goal. The second assist went to Lori Berberian, who finished the play with a long skip shot from the right side.

Sarkian finished the first quarter scoring in the final minute with her second goal of the period.

"There is a long history between us," Golabi said of her squad and the visiting Tornadoes. "so the fact that we beat them, and at our home court, was a lot sweeter."

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