First published in the Feb. 5 print issue of the Burbank Leader.
The Burroughs High School girls’ water polo team was on the cusp of history when it took to the pool Wednesday against visiting Hoover High.
Against the Tornados, the Bears stepped, or rather swam, into the history books with a dominant 23-5 victory to claim this season’s Pacific League title.
“It’s the first league championship in the school’s history for the girls’ water polo team, so it’s a big deal,” Burroughs coach Jacob Cook said.
It had been a dream deferred for the Bears, who were unblemished in league play, winning all seven of their games in the one round of league play that determined who would win the title. (There was not a league tournament this season.)
“We’re very excited about [the championship], obviously,” said Cook, who jumped into the pool with his squad to celebrate the title. “We had a chance a couple years ago but lost by one in the championship game. We could have had a chance last year except for COVID, so it was nice to get it this year.”
The hosts had two players singlehandedly outscore visiting Hoover. JBHS’ Makenna Palamara notched a game-high eight goals, including three in both the second and third periods. Nancy Baylor scored seven goals in the title clincher.
“It was so great to experience this together because this is my family,” Baylor said. “I’m just so happy we all got to be in the moment together and win this all together.”
Burroughs also got four goals by Clarisa Robles. Kelly Long scored two while Kelly Volpe and Isabella Medina netted one score apiece.
“It was a rough game,” Hoover coach Laura Lopez said. “We knew they were No. 1 in the league going in, but I just wanted them to go in and try their best and just go for it.”
The Bears’ defense consistently overwhelmed the Tornados, who struggled against the shot clock in the face of the defensive pressure. Burroughs held the visitors to a single goal in each of the first three periods before yielding two in the final period.
“That’s what we’ve been working on a lot,” Cook said. “Just trying to work on our press, just run the shot clock down and then use that to our advantage going into the counter.”
Burroughs was dominant from the beginning, winning the opening sprint, which led to Robles assisting Baylor down the middle of the pool for the first goal 13 seconds in.
Burroughs would score the first five goals. Medina scored the second goal with a shot into the corner of the net. Twenty-six seconds later, Baylor stole the ball and drove down the pool for another score. Soon after, Robles assisted Long on a goal. The final point of the run came after a Robles steal led to Long scoring in transition with 2:05 left to go.
Hoover broke the run and got on the board with 1:35 left when Koulayan fired away successfully from long range.
The Bears responded with three more scores, starting with a Baylor goal assisted by Robles, then a Volpe goal assisted by Baylor, before Palamara’s first goal from close range with 17 seconds to go. The score was 8-1 after the opening period.
Burroughs scored the first four points of the second quarter, thanks to two goals apiece by Baylor and Palamara.
After Hoover scored, Palamara netted the final goal of the period with 2:25 left on a backhanded shot to set the margin at the break at 13-2.
The Bears poured it on some more with seven goals in the third period. Baylor scored the first 37 seconds in. Robles and Palamara did the rest of the damage with three goals apiece in the stanza.
The fourth quarter opened with a Tornados goal before Baylor and Palamara each then scored. Robles made good on a five-meter shot with 23 seconds left for the final tally of the contest.