S.B. Water Polo Club teams bring home gold and silver

The Santa Barbara Water Polo Club's 12-under girls stand at the top of the podium at the National Junior Olympics in Irvine.

The Santa Barbara Water Polo Club produced four medal-winning girls teams at the National Junior Olympics in Orange County last week.

The 12-under and 16-under teams captured gold medals while the 18U and 21U squads came home with silver medals after four days of competition.

Coach Brian “Chuckie” Roth’s 12U girls set the pace, beating Laguna Beach in the “A” final, 11-5, at the William Woollett Aquatics Center in Irvine. The title capped an undefeated season for Roth’s “Regulators.” They also won the National Club Championship.

Santa Barbara defeated powerhouse programs from across the country, including defending champion Commerce to claim the gold. Jesse Brummet was named the tournament’s MVP.

An hour later, coach Mark Walsh followed Roth into the drink as his 16U squad successfully defended its National Junior Olympic title by defeating SET Water Polo in the quarterfinals, Commerce in the semifinals and SOCAL Water Polo Club in the gold-medal game, 11-7. Jamie Neushul was named tournament MVP.

In the 18s final, the Cathy Neushul- and Lance Schroeder-coached squad lost a tough 6-5 decision to Huntington Beach in the championship game.

Santa Barbara had to battle through the qualification round after an early 10-8 loss to SOCAL Black-18s in bracket play. They defeated Commerce, CHAWP, and Rip Tide (Florida) en route to a Sunday morning rematch with SOCAL in the semis.  Santa Barbara got revenge with a 10-6 victory to reach the final.

In the title match, Huntington Beach goalkeeper and UCLA-bound Sarah Wilkey blocked 11 Santa Barbara shots, including a backhander from Stanford-bound Kiley Neushul in the final minutes. Huntington Beach broke a 5-5 tie with 3:40 left in the fourth period.

Santa Barbara’s 18 team’s included outstanding players from all Channel League high schools.  Several are going on to play college water polo in the fall, including Makenzy Fowler (Arizona State), Brittny Hummel (Sonoma State), Rose Koper (Claremont McKenna College), Noelle Mann (University of the Pacific), Tahnia Mark (UCSB), Kiley Neushul (Stanford), Tiera Schroeder (Cal Berkeley), and Chandler Vilander (George Washington).

Santa Barbara’s 21U team fell to SOCAL in the championship game, 9-5. Stanford’s Kaley Dodson scored four goals for the winners.

Santa Barbara Aquatics Club veterans Ashlea Coski (San Jose State), Kasey Creek (UCSB), Alex Hill (Cal), Sami Hill (UCLA), Rachel Nelson (UCSB), Amanda Redfern (Indiana), Sienna Van Alphen (UCSB), and Jade Wentz-Fitzgerald (San Diego State) returned to play for the local team. They were joined by Kiley Neushul and current UCSB players Molly Hafferkamp, and Katie Zakula.

Santa Barbara’s 14A team, coached by Conner Levoff and Cathy Neushul, took sixth place after falling to eventual champion Commerce by one point in bracket play.

The 14s battled back, beating SET water polo club and Rose Bowl before falling to eventual runner up SOCAL in a bid for a berth in the semifinals.