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Last image of Kaplanyan not a lasting one

Hoover and, arguably area's, finest player sees days end on deck rather than in pool.

November 16, 2011|By Gabriel Rizk, gabriel.rizk@latimes.com

WALNUT — While his senior season could arguably be remembered as Hakop Kaplanyan's most successful in a Hoover High cap, the final match of his high school career will likely go down as his worst.

Not because the Tornadoes fell to a deeper, more playoff-tested Pasadena Poly squad, 13-6, in the CIF Southern Section Division V semifinals Wednesday night at Mount San Antonio College, but because the final image of an athlete who so dominated swimming pools across the section for four years was of Kaplanyan sitting on the edge of the pool deck powerless.

"It just kills me because I want to be there helping them out and I want to be there doing it, but I'm not able to do anything," Kaplanyan said. "I know for a fact that if I was in there, that five-goal first quarter [deficit] was nothing for us. We've brought games back [from down] seven goals, nine goals, so it was just disheartening. I was powerless to do anything like that, it was just awful."

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Depending on who you ask, Kaplanyan's unexpectedly brief swan song was the result of either a blown call or an ill-timed, and poorly concealed, display of aggression.

With two seconds remaining in the first quarter and his team being pushed around by Poly, 6-1, Kaplanyan was rolled from the match for attempting to head butt an opposing player, a charge Kaplanyan vehemently denied, saying he was being held by his cap's drawstring and the misconstrued offensive movement was simply an effort to break free.

But whether Kaplanyan got a raw deal or simply got caught with his hand in the cookie jar, the end result felt like a most unfitting conclusion to an extraordinary high school career.

Kaplanyan, who set the sectional record for goals scored in a single season when he was only a sophomore and has earned All-Area Player of the Year honors for two years running, appears to live for situations such as the one Hoover found itself in early in the first quarter Wednesday night.

Four days earlier against second-seeded Palm Desert in the quarterfinals, Kaplanyan provided the offensive spark from down by a similar deficit in his dynamic signature style — disappearing under the surface, gliding over, around and through defenders with the ball somehow upheld in his palm as if on a tee, then breeching from the depths to launch an unstoppably powerful shot skipped off the water at an impossibly sharp angle that somehow finds the back of the cage before anyone knows where to look.

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