By Walsh CARVALHO
With the title of Pacific League champions on the line, the Crescenta Valley Falcons (8-0, 18-8) boys varsity water polo team managed to reclaim its title in a tough overtime win last Thursday against the Glendale Nitros (6-2, 18-6) with a final score of 14-12.
The win against the Nitros gave the Falcons a first round bye, and propelled them straight into today’s second round game against Oxnard (7-3, 15-12), the Pacific View league’s third seed. Oxnard beat Arroyo Valley (6-4, 13-15), the San Andreas league’s second seed, 19-12 last Tuesday.
Today’s game is at 6 p.m. at Burbank High, 902 N. 3rd St. in Burbank.
The Falcons advanced into today’s round after a clutch overtime win against the Glendale Nitros. Prior to last week, the most recent contest ended with the Falcons walking away with a dominating 11-1 win over the Nitros.
The league championship would prove to be a completely different match up. From the starting whistle it looked as if CV was going to dominate again with a goal by Matt Peters just seconds into the game. Glendale’s Manuk Hakobyan put in the Nitros first goal of the game to keep within one. However a few more goals by CV’s Alan Dearman, Martin Rivera, and a breakaway shot by Andrew De Jong and the Falcons were right back in it.
The first quarter was coming to an end and CV looked to have a good grasp of their opponent. But then CV lost a major component to their outside shooting game when Peters, with 18 seconds left in the first, was thrown out of the game with a major ejection. The loss of Peters, who scored in every quarter last game, was sure to affect the team make up.
The Nitros looked to have a plan for revenge and this was the perfect time to implement it. The Falcons were unable to get their defense charged and running properly and the Nitros offense came unleashed.
CV’s defense was overpowered by the offense of Gor Asryan who scored the Nitros first goal of the third quarter. Glendale’s Manuk Hakobyan also scored in the third; Hakobyan had a total of three goals on the day.
The Falcons started the fourth quarter behind 6-9 and appeared to be at a major disadvantage. Appearances can be deceiving, though, and Glendale’s coach Holbrook seemed to know it. “It’s not over,” yelled Holbrook to his team. But that comment was dual edged as it reminded the Falcons that indeed it was not over. This was their title to defend and they were not ready to lose it.
The Falcons defense rallied, picking up the level of play.
“It starts with defense and ends with offense,” claimed Rivera and the Falcon defense made that apparent, completely shutting down the Nitros offense in the fourth.
The Falcons offensive was no slacker either with goals from CV’s Alan Dearman, who had three goals total, and Robby Ruzicka to go within one of Glendale.
Glendale, up 8-9 with under a minute left in regulation play, had possession of the ball and looked to slow down the game’s pace. But CV’s Rivera had a different idea in mind and proceeded to steal the ball at mid pool, passing it to De Jong who was swimming uncontested toward the net. De Jong gave one head fake to Nitros goalie Haik Chatalyan, reeled back and fired the game tying goal. The crowd erupted as they watched the clock tick away, sending the game into overtime.
With an even playing surface and control of the game’s momentum, the Falcons started OT with a different approach.
CV’s Rivera quickly executed the first goal in OT, but seconds later the Nitros Martin Narinyan returned the favor to even the score once again.
Just as OT was coming to an end, CV’s Daniel Olson passed the ball to Ruzicka who deflected it into the net for a goal. CV, now up 11-10, was once again defending their net; Glendale took a full court shot that was blocked by CV goalie Rane Colvin. Colvin looked at the clock, which had only two seconds left, reached back and heaved the ball from his goal, across the pool for another pivotal CV goal.
Later, Colvin said that he had attempted a shot like that “all the time in practice, but it never paid off.” Practice makes perfect as it paid off against Glendale.
Crescenta Valley with a 12-10 lead went into the second overtime with a mission, a mission to retain the title.
A goal by the Nitros David Grigorian brought the Nitros back within one. CV’s Rivera answered the call with a gigantic skip shot, with just under a minute left.
Glendale’s Asryan was fouled in a critical moment and was granted a five-meter penalty shot. Asryan made the goal, giving him a total of three goals on the night.
The Nitros, down 13-12, pressed hard onto CV’s hole/set Chris Veselich and brought three defenders into battle for the ball. Veselich ultimately prevailed and passed the ball to De Jong who once again had no one to beat but Nitro goal tender Chatalyan. De Jong came out on top, putting the Falcons up by two with 14 seconds left on the clock, sealing a Falcons victory and once more claiming the title of Pacific League champion.
Now it is time for Sakonju to keep his team focused and get ready to play high caliber water polo and attempt to reclaim their CIF Southern Section Division VI title.
“One of the great things about my guys is that they really do have hearts of a champion, and they play like champions,” said Sakonju. “We were going to win that game, it was just a matter of playing our game, going out there and executing.”
Rivera commented on what he felt was the game changing moment. “When De Jong made that counter attack goal! I was so amped!” Rivera said as he stood shaking. “I just love playing when it’s clutch. When it’s clutch man…I’m there! You know…we’re here to win…we’re here to win!”
Win is exactly what they did and is what they hope to do for the next four games. Four is the magic number for the Falcons to capture the CIF-SS Division VI championship for a second year running.
The winner of today’s contest will advance to the quarter final round this Saturday, Nov. 14.