First published in the Jan. 14 print issue of the Glendale News-Press.
With both Crescenta Valley and Burbank Burroughs off to strong starts in the girls’ water polo Pacific League season, one would fall from the ranks of the unbeaten as the Falcons hosted the Bears in a matchup of league frontrunners.
Burroughs took an early advantage on the host Falcons and never trailed en route to a 10-5 win to remain perfect in league play Thursday evening under the lights at the Glendale High Aquatic Center.
“After being undefeated league champs last year, we just have an expectation that we are holding for ourselves that we need to win league,” Burroughs’ Ava Tomlinson said.
Burroughs (10-6 overall, 3-0 league) was led by the dynamic play of Nancy Baylor, who had a game-high four goals. Baylor was clearly the fastest swimmer in the pool, and her decision-making on both ends led the Bears.
Tomlinson scored three goals, including the final two goals of the contest in the fourth quarter, which saw the visitors shut out Crescenta Valley (5-8 overall, 3-1 league) in the final period.
The opening sprint was won by Burroughs, and the Bears grabbed the lead just 14 seconds in when Tomlinson scored with a shot into the upper left corner of the cage.
The Bears doubled the advantage with 2:39 left in the opening period when Siahni Suarez scored a goal off an assist from Anastasia Zubkoff.
Crescenta Valley cut into the lead with 1:10 left in the first when Gianna Double netted a goal from long distance. In the final minute of the period, Baylor got the ball in transition, swam the length of the pool, eluded the defense and scored with 10 seconds to go to put the visitors up 3-1 entering the second period.
The Falcon offense came to life in the second period, scoring the first two goals of the quarter to tie the contest at 3-3. Mayda Hartounian scored with a lob shot 1:25 in from the left side.
Twenty-one seconds later, Michelle Khachatryan drew the Falcons even with a low driving shot.
However, just 11 seconds later Baylor converted a five-meter penalty, skipping the ball past the goalie to retake the lead, which turned out to be for good.
Baylor struck again with 1:45 to go before half when she made a steal in the middle of the pool and eventually fired a shot in for the final goal of the half, staking her team to a 5-3 advantage at the break.
Burroughs won the opening sprint of the third quarter and cashed in with a goal from Sarah Metry, whose shot hit the side bar and went in.
The Falcons battled back, scoring the next two goals. With 6:18 left, Falcon Ani Thomasian converted a five-meter shot. The sophomore also scored the next goal, this one coming with 2:38 left, off an assist by Ann Donohoe.
The lead had been trimmed to one, but that was as close as the Falcons would get.
Baylor drew a foul and was awarded a five-meter shot in the final minute of the period that she converted to give the Bears a 7-5 cushion going into the final period.
“Looking at the team we have and the game we played, overall, I think we did pretty well,” CV coach Amber Dien said. “I think we know what to expect if we have to play Burroughs again [in the league tournament] and I think we know how to make adjustments, and I think we will be OK.”