The top-ranked 14 and under girls water polo team from Laguna Beach captured first place in the USA Water Polo National Junior Olympics qualifying tournament this past weekend.
The Southern Pacific Area zone, or SPA as it is known, held its National Junior Olympic qualifying tournament for younger divisions, which included 87 teams in five different divisions playing in nine different pools throughout the county between Friday and Sunday. Of the 11 zones nationwide, SPA, comprised of Orange County and the Inland Empire, annually produces several top 10 teams.
Because Laguna’s 14 and under girls team was ranked No. 1 for the tournament, they received a first round bye in the 17 team field and did not play Friday. They began tournament play Saturday against Corona del Mar and cruised to a 16-2 victory. This put Laguna straight into the semi-final match against the team from El Toro, SET. SET has traditionally been a powerhouse and is where some of the Laguna players go when they enter high school as Laguna cannot accommodate a high school-level club program given the lack of pool space in the city.
This semi-final match was a close battle throughout and found the Laguna team down by two goals at one point during the game. The girls were able to reach another gear and squeezed out a win, 9-8.
In the final, Laguna faced off against one of the county’s most successful clubs, Tustin’s SoCal. The match started in a defensive battle that ended the first quarter with Laguna ahead 3-2. Laguna tightened the screws on its defense and pulled ahead, winning with a final score of 8-4. With this victory, Laguna will receive the number two overall seed for Junior Olympics and put them in a position for the national event in early August.
This was the seventh tournament that this 14 and under girls team has won this season.
“The girls did great this weekend and showed a lot of heart in coming back in that semi-final game”, commented Chad Beeler, club administrator. “I think it hurt us having so few games but they showed they could come ready to play by winning big in the finals.”