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Glendale boys' water polo takes down upper-division foe

SOUTH PASADENA — Though they have moved up one division and have a new coach on board, the goal remains the same for the members of the Glendale High boys’ water polo team.

After winning the CIF Southern Section Division V championship last season, the Nitros now reside in Division IV. It might take some time for the Nitros to adjust to the new level, but they are eager to vie for another title.

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“We’re still adjusting , but we think we still have a very good team,” said Manuk Piloyan, who scored a team-high four goals to lead visiting Glendale to an 8-6 nonleague victory against South Pasadena on Thursday. “There are some new teams that we are facing, but we know every team will try to play us the same.

“We’re learning each game. We just need to work on a few things and we think we’ll be OK to go.”

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Glendale, ranked third in the division, improved to 7-5 under the guidance of first-year coach Stephen Whittier. South Pasadena, ranked 10th in Division III, dropped to 3-7.

Piloyan scored three goals in the first half despite being double-teamed most of the time to help Glendale, which has won three straight undefeated Pacific League championships, build a 6-2 advantage. South Pasadena, which competes in the Rio Hondo League, could get no closer than two goals three times in the second half.

Glendale never trailed, taking a 1-0 lead on a goal by Levon Gevorkyan with 5:50 to play in the first quarter. Piloyan, a reigning All-Area, all-league and All-CIF selection, made it 2-1 with 1:19 remaining in the first quarter.

After the Tigers tied it at 2 on a goal by Vaughn Huelsman with 38 seconds left in the opening quarter, the Nitros used a key 4-0 run in the second quarter to make it 6-2 before holding the Tigers at bay.

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Piloyan made it 3-2 with 6:29 to play in the first half. Marko Vucetic extended the lead to 4-2 with 5:53 to play. The Nitros then got one goal apiece from Piloyan and Gevorkyan in the final minute of the half to pad the advantage to 6-2.

“I thought we played real well in the first half,” said Whittier, who took over the program from Forest Holbrook. “South Pasadena did a much better job at counter-attacking in the second half, but then we got some steals.

“I’m happy with the way we stayed with it when it got close.”

South Pasadena got two goals in a 45-second span from Ryan Rodriguez to pull to within 6-4. Rodriguez’ second goal came via a five-meter shot with 3:39 to go in the third quarter.

Piloyan then made it 7-4 with 2:01 left in the quarter before the Tigers countered with a goal by Rodriguez to make it 7-5 with 1:11 remaining in the third quarter. Rodriguez paced South Pasadena with four goals.

Vucetic provided Glendale with an insurance goal to make it 8-5 with 2:54 left in the fourth quarter. Huelsman closed out the scoring with 1:45 left.

Glendale goalkeeper Garrett Fritz finished with seven saves, including four in the second half. South Pasadena goalkeeper Will Renken collected 14 saves.

“It’s still a transition, but we are getting better,” Whittier said. “All coaches have different strategies.”

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