The start of the high school boys’ water polo is a prime opportunity to schedule quality opponents to test your team and get a barometer of where they are at.
That is exactly what San Marino and Crescenta Valley did when the Titans hosted the Falcons.
In a highly competitive match, San Marino pulled ahead after halftime and hung on in the final quarter for an 11-9 victory over Crescenta Valley on Sept. 5 in a nonleague affair.
“CV is very talented and they have a lot of drivers, and that got us into trouble with the calls we were getting from the officials,” San Marino coach Robert Zirovich said. “We had to modify how we played, but the boys never gave up and they pushed through. We’re real proud of what we accomplished today.”
It was not an easy outing for the victors as San Marino (3-0 overall) trailed in the first and second quarters. The two teams were tied at the break before the Titans took control in the third quarter and went on to win their home opener.
Diego Joaquin Garcia led the way for San Marino with five goals, including all three of his team’s scores in the first quarter. Daniel Chen and Kevin Benitez each tallied two goals for the hosts, while Howard Huang and freshman Nathan Chan each scored once.
“We just worked well,” Garcia said. “We paid attention to what was happening on the other side of the pool, like when the ball was on the left side, watching the right side. We played really well with the passing — really communicating. I’m just proud of my team.”
Alex Movsesyan led the Falcons with three goals. Levon Babayan and Edgar Galstyan each scored twice, and Devin Janparian and Evan Choi notched a goal apiece.
“One of the reasons we schedule San Marino is because we know consistently they are very good and they showed that today,” Falcons coach Jan Sakonju said. “That’s the kind of game you want in the preseason, to be pushed so we can also find our strengths and weaknesses and what we need to work on.”
San Marino outscored Crescenta Valley 5-1 in the third period after the match was deadlocked at 5-5 after the first half.
“We really lost momentum in the third,” Sakonju said.
Benitez struck first 1:04 into the third, scoring a goal with a Falcon defender draped all over him. Galstyan retied the score 42 seconds later when he successfully converted a 5-meter penalty shot.
San Marino then scored the next four goals of the quarter, starting at the 3:20 mark when Chen left the Titans’ side of the pool while they were still on defense. This set him up to receive a long outlet pass once the hosts got the ball back, allowing him to score.
With 1:18 to go, Garcia swam in toward the goal unmarked before unleashing a skip shot from medium distance that found the back of the cage. With 16 seconds left, Benitez scored off a pass from Yuteng Li. The Titans immediately regained possession and earned a 5-meter shot, which Chen converted with nine seconds remaining.
Crescenta Valley (4-2) outscored San Marino 3-1 in the fourth quarter. Choi scored first with a shot that bounced off San Marino goaltender Thomas Zhou’s arm and into goal with 5:07 left. Just 28 seconds later, Zhou saved his second 5-meter shot attempt of the match, denying Movsesyan. Then, with 3:13 to go, Janparian got the visitors within two with a goal from a tight angle on the left side of the pool. Titan freshman Nathan Chan bought the hosts some breathing room with a goal with 2:41 to play before Babayan scored on a 5-meter shot to set the final margin with 52 seconds remaining.
Garcia opened the scoring 1:02 into the first quarter, but Crescenta Valley came back with the next two goals. The first was on a skip shot by Movsesyan at the 4:23 mark and the next was by Galstyan, who caught and shot, in one motion a pass, from Movsesyan to pull ahead with 3:27 to go. Garcia then scored twice in the final 2:18 to give the Titans a 3-2 lead after the opening frame.
The second quarter saw Crescenta Valley score the first three goals to open a two-goal cushion with 2:32 to go before an action-packed final minute.
Huang scored with 39 seconds left. The next time down the pool, Zhou saved a 5-meter shot. On the following possession, Li assisted Garcia for a goal with five seconds left to send the teams into halftime knotted at five.
“We made some minor adjustments in terms of how we defended [CV] before they drive and that probably was the difference maker, but [my] boys played great on offense. They slowed things down a little bit in the second half. They forced some shots early and we didn’t do that in the third and fourth quarter,” Zirovich said of what changed after the break.
SMHS 14, HOOVER 9
The Titans defeated host Hoover High in Glendale in a nonleague matchup on Sept. 8 as Chen scored a team-high four goals.
Huang and freshman Nathan Chan each netted three goals, Tristian Wong scored two, and Benitez and Jack Li contributed one goal apiece.
Undefeated San Marino (4-0 overall) is set to visit Schurr High in Montebello for a nonleague match on Sept. 14 at 4:15 p.m. Afterward, the Titans will kick off their Rio Hondo League campaign with a game at Monrovia on Sept. 26.
— Sebastian Moore contributed to this report.
First published in the Sept. 14 issue of the San Marino Tribune