2018 USA Water Polo Junior Olympics: Day One

Player for CC United is all in! Photo Courtesy: Catharyn Hayne

LOS GATOS, CA. Day one at the 2018 USA Water Polo National Junior Olympics featured hundreds of matches between boys clubs in the 12U, 14U, 16U and 18U age groups. The tournament is a vast undertaking; for this first day as there were 491 matches over 24 different sites in three different categories—Championship. Classic and Invitational—ranging from Santa Cruz High School to Campolindo High School, a distance of 80 miles.

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The epicenter of activity for all eight days of the tournament is the Avery Aquatic Center at Stanford University in Palo Alto. From morning to night there were games played in all three pools at Avery, and it appeared that the action would never stop (of course, it did; the latest game time at all venues was 8:15 p.m., which was a 12U match between 680 Drivers “A” and Greenwich “B” – won 15-3 by 680.

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Photo Courtesy: Catharyn Hayne

Your correspondent parked himself for much of the day at Campolindo High School in Moraga, California, where fourteen 14U teams from the Invitational, or lowest, category competed in 14 matches from 8 a.m. to 6:50 p.m., and eight 18U teams from the Classic—of mid-level—division competed in 15 matches, the last of which ended at 7:30 p.m.

Following are select comments from various participants at Campolindo High School.

Andrew Morris, volunteering for USA Water Polo; site supervisor for the matches at Campolindo High School. He arrived Saturday morning at the site at 5:30am and was there until 7pm.

– Clearly this is not an easy gig; what compels you to do it?

I do it for the kids. At the end of the day it’s been brutal and long—but all the kids had a great time.

I played water polo, I coach water polo—Marin, a club team. I played at UC Davis for Jamey Wright and Jerry Hinsdale.

– What makes JOs so important?

Culmination of a summer season, end of period for a lot of these kids… and a lot of fun.

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Photo Courtesy: Wendy Chastain

Thomas Clauss, coach, Rose Bowl Black 14U Boys team. Beat Mako Polo 10-7; lost to East 16-1. He played college polo at Whittier College.

– You beat a Brooklyn team that had never played at JOs before.

A lot of these teams we’ve seen before. Being a “B” team for a lot of these kids this is a new experience for them, a championship-style tournament. This is about focusing on the fundamentals of being a good sportsman, being a competitor, not judging your opponent and focusing on your own game.

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Photo Courtesy: Catharyn Hayne

– Suggestion for team coming West for the first time.

Go with the flow of things. A lot of it’s going to be new. From my experience of interacting with East Coast players, it’s a different type of game compared to what they might have locally. See what the California-way of doing things is—a little faster, a little-more aggressive and physical, and learning from that style. Take stuff from others and implement it into your own game.

It’s a great experience to see other teams.

– Expectations for representing one of the top California age group clubs?

It’s a lot of fun! It’s a big club; one of the things that’s hard is numbers-wise we have a lot of kids. There are 15 kids here and I have 16 back home that just aren’t here with us. [We want to] develop everyone competitively.

Denney Domantay, father of a Rose Bowl player Brandon—played polo for three years.

– Thoughts about watching your son play in the JOs?

It was a good game, they played hard. Very physical; impressed with the other team as well. Great venue; great place to play—great day overall.

First time out, first game, very exciting.

– Managing your / your sons expectations at this tournament.

It’s very hard. Sometimes the parents want to jump in the pool because [the kids] make it look so easy. It’s a hard game and they practice a lot for it—they’re just really excited to be here.

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Mako Polo. Photo Courtesy: M.Randazzo

Zoli Danko, coach, Mako Polo 14U. Lost 10-7 to Rose Bowl; Beat Modesto/Stanislaus 9-3.

– First time at JOs—and you had to fight to get your team here.

This team deserved it. Even though we didn’t qualify initially, they definitely deserved to be here.

We had to try all channels, but we also got lucky. I think USA Water Polo recognized that if a team from New York City wants to be part of it then they should open the gates for us. Thankfully it happened.

– You lost to Rose Bowl but played a competitive match to open the tournament.

I obviously didn’t know what to expect—and the game was beyond my expectations. I’m really proud of the boys because it was the first time many of them played outdoors and in the sun. Those are contributing factors; one side of the field doesn’t even see the sun sometimes.

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Photo Courtesy: Catharyn Hayne

California [players] grew up with this; they know how to deal with the reflections; our boys, practicing in shallow/deep pools in the basement, they haven’t experienced this.

It took us a good half a game to adjust but I’m proud of them.

David Bourguinat, dad of Ian from Mako Polo. He, his wife and their son flew from France to get out to San Jose in time for the tournament.

We flew from Paris for this and it’s great to be here. The mood is great, all the parents came. It was all last minute but everybody made it happen.

– Your son—and you!—must think a lot about this sport.

If Ian is into it we might as well go all-in. That’s what we’re doing and it’s a great experience. They have to commit to understand what it’s all about.

Hopefully they all get it.

Andre Weiglein, coach with Diablo Alliance 18U team in the Classic Division. They beat Navy 6-5; lost to Northwood 17-5; beat West Suburban 12-4.

– Comments about the win over Navy.

Very good win against a Navy team. Our boys fought all the way. It’s important in tournaments like this that when your players believe they can do it, and they did it today. So, I’m very proud of them.

– How long coaching polo

Coaching about eight or nine years.

Max Schlegel, coach, Navy Aquatics 18U in the Classic Division. Lost to Diablo Alliance 6-5; beat CFWPC 14-5; beat SFWPC 14-9.

– Tough loss in the first round of the JOs.

Tough loss for sure. Thankfully the way it’s set up we have two more games today, so we can get back in the silver bracket.

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Photo Courtesy: M. Randazzo

We played good offense and had good opportunities but we missed them. We didn’t score in the second half and you can’t win if you don’t score in a half of water polo.

– Is this a new experience for your players?

Three of the boys started playing water polo this year. So some of them haven’t been anywhere yet. A couple of guys have been out here before and they’ve played for a while.

Travel is a thing but I’m not using that as an excuse. We had that game and we let it go.

– What’s your experience with Junior Olympics?

I played with Navy AC and came out here when I was in high school. And, I played for LMU [Loyola Maryland] in Los Angeles. I’m also the assistant coach at John’s Hopkins [DIII water polo program in Baltimore, MD].

One of the Navy AC players—Jacob Whitaker—is coming to Hopkins next year.

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Photo Courtesy: Catharyn Hayne

– Why does it make sense for Eastern clubs to fly all the way across the country and play against ferocious California clubs?

It’s an opportunity to play at a high level and they get showcased in front of college coaches; if you’re on the East Coast you’re not really seen by the guys out here. It’s a great learning tool for the younger guys to get better and bring all the skills they learned back here to their teammates [back East].

Luke Green, Southern Alameda County (SoAC) Water Polo; beat Stanford “C” 6-4; lost to East Rancho Tsunami 14-6.

– Your team really represents your community.

We’re a diverse community in Southern Alameda County—that’s what SoAC stands for. That’s three cities, and the three cities are known for their diversity. Our families are from different countries all over the world and the team’s like a melting pot, with the cultures and our schools represented.

– But why water polo?!

We’re the first club team to represent that area, and this is our first year sending a 14U players. For them it’s their first JO experience as a club. We had our first win this morning so it was historic.

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Photo Courtesy: Wendy Chastain

– What’s your background in polo?

I grew up in Union City, which is one of the cities we represent. I played high school water polo and played a little bit in junior college at UC Santa Cruz. I’ve been coaching ever since—close to 14 years.

We’re bringing polo to the community and to make something for the kids to enjoy.

– USA Water Polo has been doing a whole series on diversity.

A lot of these kids are first time playing water polo and they never knew of the sport. At SoAC we’re trying to start from the ground up—we started a SplashBall program. We want to be inviting to all members of our community saying this is an option for you to play.

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.

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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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