First published in the Feb. 11 print issue of the Glendale News-Press.
It would be a familiar foe in the pool for both Flintridge Prep and Glendale High in the first round of the CIF-Southern Section Division V water polo playoffs as the two schools faced off to open the postseason.
On the strength of a smothering defensive effort, Flintridge Prep broke thorough against Glendale to come away with a dominant 9-3 win Tuesday afternoon in Pasadena to advance to the second round and bring the Nitros’ season to a close.
“We we’ve been struggling against Glendale all year long,” said Flintridge Prep coach Andrew Phillips, whose squad had been defeated by the Nitros in nonleague encounters earlier this season. “Two times prior to this we’ve lost by a goal or two and it’s a nice cherry on top of the season for us to really hurdle that wall.”
Flintridge Prep (16-9 record) has now won six straight, dating back to a 9-8 loss to Glendale (11-18 record) on Jan. 21. The Nitros had also topped the Wolves, 9-7, on Nov. 29.
Flintridge Prep, ranked No. 8 in the CIF divisional poll, played relentless defense, including shutting out the visitors in the first half of the opening round contest.
“We knew where [Glendale’s] opportunities were and we tried to limit those opportunities,” Phillips said. “We tried to limit their offensive attackers the best we could. We tried to press them out and not allow them to have the ball in their hand.”
The Nitros, the No. 4 entry out of the Pacific League, struggled to find shots, often settling for attempts from long distance.
“They overpowered us. They were just a little stronger than us,” Glendale coach Steve Bagumyan said. “They were dropping on us and they kind of smothered us. We couldn’t get our shots and the ones we got we couldn’t put away.”
Anchoring Flintridge Prep on defense was goalkeeper Dahlia Kamins. The sophomore recorded 13 saves in the win.
In the first quarter, both teams hit the bar early, but the only goal of the period came from Flintridge Prep with 1:57 to go. The Wolves’ offense was packed in tight to the goal and, when Sam Bonk’s shot was turned away, teammate Katelin Kinne was there to slap the rebound in past Glendale goalkeeper Emily Gevorgyan.
The Wolves doubled the advantage in the first minute of the second quarter. Flintridge Prep’s Victoria Barry won the opening sprint and the hosts cashed in. Nico Seaver threw an assist to Alex Thein, who converted a shot from medium distance 22 seconds in.
With a 4-0 margin at halftime, both teams recorded two goals apiece in the third quarter. Glendale finally got on the board 34 seconds into the period when Inessa Khajehgian dipped under her defender to find space, surveyed her options and then fired a shot into the side netting of the cage for the goal. Naomi Cohen answered for the hosts with a goal at the 4:33 mark.
With 2:06 to go, Khajehgian scored again, only to see Seaver score her second goal just 14 seconds later.
With 5:52 remaining in the fourth period, Glendale scored what turned out to be its final goal of the season when Armine Zelveyan skipped in a goal under the goalie’s arm with 5:39 left
“We had a good season. We met some tough teams,” Bagumyan said. “We are young and it is a learning process. We just have to continue to grow and continue to improve.”