2018 USA Water Polo Junior Olympics Day Six: Cinderella Has Jumped in the Pool

Elektra Urbatsch of Brooklyn Hustle fighting for the ball. Photo Courtesy: Catharyn Hayne

By Michael Randazzo, Swimming World Contributor

APTOS, CA. For the uninitiated, the USA Water Polo National Junior Olympics resembles a vast, unimaginably intricate maze of teams and games and pools and schedules. But, in a tale as old as fire, when one team unexpectedly succeeds, the path becomes immediately clear: follow the underdog where they lead.

Such is the tale of the Brooklyn Hustle, a first-time participant at JOs.

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Born out of a desire by New York City parents to give their daughters a chance to “play with the girls,” the Hustle are a hybrid of 14U players culled from teams all over the East, including Capital Water Polo in DC, the Makos Polo from Manhattan and the Brooklyn Water Polo Club. Not meshing at first because of their disparate locations and backgrounds, at JOs the squad of Sydney Barta, Bebe and Maggie Currie, Skye Gallagher, Rachel Obora, Genevieve Randazzo, Gigi Sandull, Olivia Smith, Elektra Urbatsch and Julia Wolfson has coalesced under the leadership of Head Coach Gabby Juarez to fashion outsized success.

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Maggie Currie. Photo Courtesy: Catharyn Hayne

Since dropping their Classic tournament opener on Thursday 7-4 to Southern California power Foothill Club Water Polo, the girls from Brooklyn have reeled off five straight wins, including an overwhelming 20-11 decision against Northeast rival Chelsea Piers, CT, a club that had beaten the Hustle four previous times this year.

At the Cabrillo College pool on Friday, the Hustle continued their run, beating Modesto-Stanislaus 11-1 behind balanced scoring from Maggie Currie, Barta, Sandull and Urbatsch. Next up was the Rose Bowl B squad, representing one of the more storied polo clubs in SoCal. Going up 4-0 in the first period on the strength of three goals by Urbatsch, the visitors held on for an 8-5 win. That advanced them to the day’s final match: a play-in game against 680 Drivers B team for the upper-tier of the Classic bracket. A NorCal club that—among other pools—practices locally at Aptos High School, 680 is one of the Bay Area’s premier programs, having captured the 18U Platinum title in the 2017 JOs.

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Brooklyn at rest. Photo Courtesy: Maureen Boucher

For the assorted Brooklyn players and parents (including your correspondent)—3,000 miles away from their customary haunts—the three-hour wait between matches was an exercise in anxiety management. Some slept. Some ate or were entertained by an electronic device. Others took advantage of open water and swam. Mostly, they hung around the pool trading tales of how surprising the girls’ success has been, all with a general air of: Wake me up, I must be dreaming.

The dream lives on.

With Urbatsch—who along with Barta and Obora has the invaluable experience of having been to JOs before—leading the way, the Hustle jumped out to an early first period lead which grew to 3-1 at the half. A Brooklyn offensive burst in the third made it 6-2 after three periods, then constant defensive pressure and steady netminding by Gallagher shepherded home a convincing 9-3 decision for the visitors.

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Your Brooklyn Hustle. Photo Courtesy: Catharyn Hayne

With the win, the Hustle advances even further into unknown territory: a morning match against Laguna Beach in San Francisco’s East Bay. No matter the outcome, Cinderella refuses to leave this ball early; the prize of a remarkably successful trip west is simply too enticing.

Editor’s Note: Swimming World is on the ground all week with stories and quotes from the 2018 USA Water Polo National Junior Olympics. Look for our coverage of the largest youth water polo tournament in the world. If you want to tune into all the action at Stanford’s Avery Aquatics Center, check out FloSwimming’s link to the tournament; for pictures from various JO sites, visit this link for KLC photos.

1 Comment

1 comment

  1. avatar
    Angela Sandull

    Nice job Girls!! You ALL worked hard and deserved to be there. A mention to Gianna (Gigi) Sandull’s Water polo team is deserved as well. Thank you Westfield water polo and Coach Brian Guidera for getting Gigi into shape for JO’s!

Author: Michael Randazzo

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Michael Randazzo is a freelance contributor at Swimming World focusing on water polo. He covers polo all over the United States for SW and other publications, including the Collegiate Water Polo Association, Skip Shot, The New York Times, Total Water Polo, Water Polo Planet and others. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife and two children and roots for St. Francis Brooklyn polo.

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