Falcons’ Stifling Defense Helps Beat Tornados, 8-5

First published in the Oct. 16 print issue of the Glendale News Press.

With the Pacific League boys’ high school water polo regular season winding down, Crescenta Valley and Hoover matched up, both looking for some momentum to finish strong.
“Our league is super tight. There is a tremendous amount of parity,” CV coach Jan Sakonju said. “This year it’s very, very close, so every game is a must-win.”
Crescenta Valley kept Hoover’s offense suppressed, allowing the Falcons to rise up for an 8-5 victory at the Glendale Aquatics Center on Thursday.
The Falcons held the Tornados scoreless in both the first and third periods to key the win.
“[Our defense] effected our offense because our guys were getting tired because they had to basically do a double team [on the top Hoover players], but then reverse and go after somebody else,” Sakonju said. “Realistically, there is no one on the Hoover roster that you can straight-up drop off of. They are all very talented.”
The Falcons got on the board with 3:24 left in the first period. Jorge Gonzalez found himself open, paused, then fired a shot to the right of the goalie into the back of the net. Hoover tried to answer the next time down the pool, but David Harutyunyan’s shot hit the crossbar.
The game’s second goal came 43 seconds after the first. CV’s Jacob Choe got the ball in close following a Tornado foul and uncorked a low and powerful shot to make it 2-0.
The final goal of the period came with 1:17 left. On the secondary break, David Green passed to Eugene Lee, who scored.
Crescenta Valley (8-14 overall record, 2-2 league) won the opening sprint of the second quarter and, after the visitors earned a second shot clock following a Tornado save that went out of bounds, the Falcons cashed in. Sebastian Rivera was in the middle of the pool, where he wound up and fired away from distance for a goal.
Hoover (6-12 overall, 2-3 league) got on the board 58 seconds into the period. Raffi Gevorgyan uncorked a shot from mid-range that glanced off the arm of the goalie and in. The Tornados made it two in a row with 2:42 left before halftime, coming out of a timeout with a one-player advantage. Alex Orujian scored from the middle of the pool on a shot that skipped its way in. The final goal of the half was the hosts’ as Gonzalez fired off a shot that hit the goalie, bounced straight up, hit the bar and came down just across the line with 1:34 left. The score at half was 5-2.
In the third quarter, Crescenta Valley blanked the hosts once again. Along the way the Falcons tallied two more on the scoreboard. The Falcons were fouled on a breakaway in the opening minute and awarded a five-meter penalty shot that Rivera made good on.
Then, at the 5:35 mark, Arthur Mousesyan got behind the defense on the break, swam in and fired a shot into the upper right corner of the net for a 7-2 advantage after three quarters.
“To hold [Hoover] to two goals for quite a while was a big accomplishment,” Sakonju said.
In the final period, Hoover outscored CV 3-1. With 4:47 to go, Tornado Branden Babaei made good on a penalty shot that skipped off the water and in. Michael Peterson scored the final goal for CV with 2:23 left.
Hoover netted two more in the final 1:53 with goals by Rocco Boyadjian and then Babaei.
“Our team chemistry has gotten better as the year has gone on,” Hoover coach Kevin Witt said. “We’ve done a lot less yelling at each other. We’ve become a more cohesive unit. It’s just with the cohesion, ball movement has not followed.”