First published in the Nov. 20 print issue of the Burbank Leader.
Burbank High School’s varsity boys’ water polo team, in its most successful season in more than 50 years, lost to top-seeded Carpinteria, 12-9, in the CIF-SS Division V final last Saturday at Irvine’s William Woollett Jr. Aquatics Center.
The Bulldogs capped a marvelous year with a 19-3 overall record after winning the Pacific League title for the first time since 1969, according to Burbank Athletic Director Patrick McMenamin. It was also the first CIF finals appearance by any Burbank High team since the varsity boys’ basketball team in 2017.
“I feel like a couple of our guys were nervous going in there and that’s a given when it’s a championship game,” said David Arakelyan, Burbank’s head coach. “We didn’t put our shots away, [but Carpinteria] put their shots away … a couple calls didn’t go our way — it happens, it’s sports. But I am so insanely proud of my group and the amount of work they put in to get to this point. That was our goal from the beginning, just get to Woollett and see if the cards fall our way.”
The Bulldogs struggled to find their scoring groove throughout the match as talented Carpinteria goalie Jacob Taff acted like a brick wall in front of the goal.
Meanwhile, Burbank labored to guard Carpinteria sophomore Asher Smith, who scored seven goals — even with Burbank goalie Narek Galamdaryan maintaining the net. He recorded a team-high nine saves and two steals.
Burbank’s top two offensive performers, Johnny Agazaryan and Zack Gezalyan, recorded identical lines as both had three goals, two steals and two assists. However, Agazaryan also recorded one save after Galamdaryan was ejected with 3:09 remaining in the fourth quarter. Gezalyan and Agazaryan both tied the match in the second quarter at 5-5 and 6-6, respectively, before Carpinteria began to pull ahead.
“I am so, so proud of [Agazaryan],” Arakelyan said. “If that kid does not go to a university or college and play water polo, it’s a disgrace — it really is. That kid is amazing. All he thinks about is this sport; all he wants to do is play water polo. He’s got the body and the size and the frame for it, and just the fact that I think he’s one of the top players in his class and he hasn’t even reached his full potential.”
Hovannes Baboudjian scored twice — the final two goals of Burbank’s season in the third and fourth quarters — with one assist. Teammate Andranik Bilbulyan scored the game’s opening goal with 3:44 remaining in addition to his three steals and one assist.
Burbank will return to the pool next year, still chasing its first CIF water polo title since the program was founded in 1964.