Santa Barbara’s water polo teams dominate at JOs

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Santa Barbara Aquatics Club Girls teams equaled their best ever showing at the 2013 National Junior Olympic Championship in Orange County over the weekend. Santa Barbara girls teams are always among the nation’s best but winning Gold in 18’s and 12’s along with Silver in 14’s is unheard of at the World’s largest youth water polo tournament.

Led by Cathy Neushul, Connor Levoff, and Mark Walsh the Santa Barbara 18’s defeated a Socal super team composed entirely of high school All-Americans including the CIF Division I MVP, Orange County MVP, and two members of the Greek youth team that won the FINA 2012 Youth World Championship. Santa Barbara was the underdog despite being defending 2012 18U champions. The tightly contested match finished tied 7-7 in regulation. In the shootout tournament MVP Madeline Trabucco (SBAC, SBHS, Cal) blocked two Socal attempts while the SBAC shooters missed only once.

The win advanced SB to the championship where they built an early lead on Huntington Beach while playing superb defense, particularly against HB’s extra player offense. At one point SB led by five goals, cruising to and 8-5 victory and their second consecutive 18U National Title. Winning this final championship capped the careers of a generation that won multiple titles at 12U, 14U, 16U, and 18U National Junior Olympics. Coach Mark Walsh noted that “with this victory this generation of Santa Barbara girls won five consecutive National Championships.” The majority started playing water together at age 10-11.

The team included Madeline Trabucco SBHS/Cal (goal), Laurel Kistler DPHS/UCSD, Miranda Schrader Righetti HS/UCSB, Carly Christian Newport Harbor/UCSB, Shannon Cleary DPHS, Hannah Koper SMHS/Brown, Jamie Neushul DPHS/Stanford, Tess Wardle VHS/UCSB, Rocio Fesembeck SBHS, Kelsey O’Brien SBHS/UCLA, Betsy Hendrix SBHS, Sophie Trabucco SBHS/UCSB, and Amanda Longan (Goal). Madeline Trabucco was named Tournament MVP.

Chuckie Roth’s 12U Girls brought the 12U Gold back to SBAC with a resounding second half victory over Diablo of Northern California. The team broke a 2-2 half time deadlock and ended up winning 7-2 and bringing home SBAC’s second 12U National Championship in the last three years. Lili-Rose Akin scored two goals in the championship match, including a half-court shot at the end of the third quarter that Roth called a “backbreaker” for the other team.

The 12’s defeated strong teams from 680 of Northern California, Laguna Beach, and United on their way to the championship. The 2013 National Junior Olympic Champions included goalkeeper Grace Raisin, Akin, Abbi Hill, Abigail Hendrix, Fiona Sonni, Mia Imbernino, Chloe Pena, and Olivia Kistler. Abbi Hill was named MVP.

“We definitely kept getting better and better,” Roth said of his team’s improvement throughout the year.

Cathy Neushul and Connor Levoff led a veteran 14U girls team that captured this season’s Turbo Cup, San Diego Cup, and National Club Championship. The 14U’s eliminated perennial powers SET and Socal in bracket play and then defeated Rose Bowl 9-8 in the semi-finals. SBAC met 680 of Northern California in a back and forth championship match, losing in the final seconds 8-9. The 2013 Silver medalists include Petra Huebner-Schurch (goal), Brittany Prentice, Jessie Brummett, Abbi Hill, Paige Hauschild, Olivia Kistler, Mackenzie Fell, Ryann Neushul, Kailie McGeoy, and Whitney Steidl.

Two Golds and a Silver at the 2013 National Junior Olympics equals Santa Barbara Water Polo’s best ever performance in the Girls division. The club fielded eight teams seven of which played into the elite championship bracket.

Neushul commented that “the performance of our B teams playing into the top flight of the tournament and defeating numerous A teams from across the nation is a shining moment for Santa Barbara Water Polo Club.”