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Changing tides in the Pacific

Rebuilding champion Crescenta Valley may have its toughest challenge yet from rising Glendale and Hoover.

August 30, 2011|By Gabriel Rizk,

The pecking order of the three local boys' water polo teams in the Pacific League may be primed for some reshuffling this season.

Crescenta Valley High, Glendale and Hoover have established themselves as the top three programs in the league over the past several seasons and, with all three being members of CIF Southern Section Division V, the Falcons, Nitros and Tornadoes have also found themselves in the same postseason pool year after year, although no head-to-head matchups have materialized there.

"Our league is always pretty competitive," third-year Glendale Coach Forest Holbrook said. "There's always a lot of competition between Hoover, Crescenta Valley and us."


The Falcons have held the edge over the last three years, winning the league title each time and advancing to the divisional semifinals the last two seasons after winning a CIF championship in Division VI in 2008.

Last year's team was especially dominant, blowing through the league and holding down the top ranking in the division before entering the playoffs as the No. 1 seed, only to fall to eventual runner-up Pasadena Poly one match short of the finals.

Whatever the end result for the Falcons this season, the process, at the very least, figures to be quite different, as only one starter — senior driver/hole/guard Louis Wojciechowski — is back from last year's team.

"I think we're the underdog [in league]," Sakonju said. "I think we have a shot at being in the top three, but if we'll be on the top, that's definitely uncertain and it's something that we're trying to do.

"[Glendale and Hoover] are ahead of us, but that brings excitement to it, as well. …It's easier not having a target on your back and the whole division chasing you."

CIF is in agreement with Sakonju as far as the Nitros are concerned, slotting them one spot above the No. 7 Falcons at No. 6 in the Division V preseason rankings, while Hoover enters as the No. 10-ranked squad.

Glendale, which finished second in league and bowed out in the CIF quarterfinals last year, is looking more and more like the favorite in league now, even after failing to add the 2010 Pacific League Player of the Year Hakop Kaplanyan, who unsuccessfully attempted to transfer from Hoover in the spring.

Holbrook still brings back a strong core of established players led by center/guard David Grigorian and set/defender Shant Tokatyan, both seniors, and junior driver Martik Chatalyan, as well as a promising underclass.

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