Santa Barbara Water Polo Club Girls teams were poised to win three National Junior Olympic Championships on Sunday at the 2014 National Junior Olympic Championship held at Stanford University. After four days competing against the nation’s best teams, Santa Barbara’s 12U, 14U, and 16U teams all advanced to the championship game at the World’s largest youth water polo tournament. Local fans in yellow shirts turned Stanford’s state of the art water polo arena into a Santa Barbara party that produced some of the tournament’s most exciting water polo.
Led by Chuckie Roth and Kelsie Hendrix, Santa Barbara’s 12U girls broke open a tight match with Trojan Water Polo Club to take their second consecutive National Junior Olympic Title. The 12’s withstood an early onslaught of outside shots from Trojan while breaking down their opponent’s defense by drawing ejections and scoring on extra player set play. Santa Barbara cruised to victory in the fourth quarter winning 9-6. The most dramatic 12U match of the tournament came in the semi-finals when Santa Barbara eliminated top ranked United Water Polo Club in a low scoring game that ended when Angela Drake scored a dramatic tie breaking goal late in the fourth quarter to capture a 4-3 victory over the favorites. The 2014 12U National Junior Olympic Champions included Ana Amaral, Riley Christen, Shannon Connelly, Angela Drake, Emma Engmyr, Abigail Hendrix, Claire Kronen, Hannah Meyer, Cassidy Miller, Megan Musick, Ella Prentice, Sabina Shackelford, Ava Stryker, and Charlize Winter. Anna Cable had an outstanding tournament in goal. Abigail Hendrix was named Tournament MVP.
Led by Cathy Neushul and Connor Levoff, the 14U Girls avenged last year’s championship loss to 680 Water Polo Club with a resounding 13-7 victory in the quarterfinals followed by a 10-6 semi-final win over perennial power Socal. Santa Barbara met Laguna Beach in the final which went to a shootout after a dramatic fourth quarter finish that saw the 14’s storm back from a three goal deficit to tie the game 8-8 with less than 10 seconds on the clock. Santa Barbara fell in the sudden death phase of the shootout 8.3 to 8.4. The 2014 National Junior Olympic Silver Medalists included Lili Rose Akin, Paige Hauschild, Abbi Hill, Olivia Kistler, Ryann Neushul, Chloe Pena, Grace Raisin, Georgia Ransone, Jamie Stryker, Alexandra Szymczak, and Jocelyn Thorp. Sophie Trumbull was in goal.
Santa Barbara’s third and final hour in the Championship pool saw the 16 girls battle defending champion SET Water Polo Club which included four members of Laguna Beach High School’s 2014 CIF Division I Championship team. In one of the tournament’s most physical games the sixteen’s played SET even for most of the game and then fell behind by three early in the final quarter. Santa Barbara battled back late in the game but were unable to hold off SET’s dominant center forwards and fell 10-8. The 2014 National Junior Olympic Silver Medalists included Victoria Bray, Jessie Brummett, Mackenzie Fell, Kristina Garcia, Hailey Gellert, Paige Hauschild, Abbi Hill, Kate Coski, Lara Kostruba, Ryann Neushul, Brittany Prentice, Jesse Ransone, Juliana Shackelford, and Whitney Steidl. Piper Smith was outstanding in goal.
Santa Barbara’s B teams also excelled at the 2014 National Junior Olympics. In the Championship Bracket Pam Tanase’s 14B girls won Silver while Dennis Van Alphen led the 18B Girls to a Bronze medal finish. Santa Barbara’s two time defending champion 18 girls fell in the quarter finals. Several members of the squad are moving on to compete at some of the nation’s finest collegiate programs. These include Britten Vilander DPHS/Iona College; Halie Johnson SMHS/Cal Baptist; Anna Brummett SBHS/Indiana; Ari St. Oegger DPHS/Loyola Marymount; Shannon Cleary DPHS/Stanford; Mary Brooks UC Irvine; Betsy Hendrix SBHS/UCSB; and Jessica Gaffney SBHS/Claremont McKenna. They will join a distinguished group of Santa Barbara Water Polo alumni competing in NCAA Division I programs. Ten Santa Barbara Water Polo Club alumni participated in the 2014 NCAA Division I National Championship tournament.