SB Polo Pals bring home gold from USA Water Polo Junior Olympics

The Santa Barbara Polo Pals captured the National Junior Olympics title in the Boys 18s Division.

The Santa Barbara Polo Pals captured the National Junior Olympics title in the Boys 18s Division.

The Santa Barbara Polo Pals, a collection of standout water polo players from Dos Pueblos, Santa Barbara High and other top high school programs in Southern California, as well as some incoming UCSB freshmen, won the gold medal in the Boys 18s Division at the USA Water Polo National Junior Olympics in Orange County last week.

The Polo Pals edged Los Angeles Premier, 7-6, in an intense final match. Harvard-bound goalie Anthony Ridgely (Harvard Westlake High) made a last-second save on a power play to secure the victory. Ridgely was named the division’s MVP.

The local players on the championship team included Stanford-bound Blake Parrish, Santa Clara-bound Kelly Reynolds, Jake Griffin and Quinn Peacock from Dos Pueblos and Santa Barbara High grad Sam Johnson, who just completed his first year at Cal. The UCSB recruits on the squad were Borislav Jovanovic of Serbia, Eric Goldenberg of Florida and Grant Labounty of Long Beach Wilson High.

Rounding out the talented squad were Tyler Han from Ventura, Wade Shipman and Ethan Wojociechowski of Huntington Beach and Ridgley, Johnny Hooper, Charles Oman and Raphael Raede of CIF Division 1 champion Harvard Westlake.

The Santa Barbara Polo Pals were coached by Chris Parrish of Dos Pueblos.

Parrish said the team was “really years in the making.” His son, Blake, met many of the “Pals” at his Olympic Development Program training sessions and became friends.

“When four of the players from Harvard Westlake found themselves without a club team once they had graduated, it didn’t take much for them to come together with Blake to create the foundation for what would become the Polo Pals,” coach Parrish explained. “As soon as word got out that we would be putting this team together, other players that were in a similar predicament asked to join the team. Also, three other DP players wanted to join, as well as Sam Johnson who had just finished his first year at Cal but was still young enough to participate with us.”

Parrish credited the team’s success to the unselfishness of the players.

“As John Wooden put it: ‘It is amazing what a team can accomplish when no one cares who gets the credit.’ This team bought in to that way of thinking.  We certainly had the talent to win, but All-Star teams don’t always fare too well because of the egos and the systems the players are used to running. This team grasped that dilemma and made sure we were the exception to that rule.”

He also pointed to the team’s prowess on defense as a key to winning the national championship.

“When it came down to it, other teams simply couldn’t score on us, and when they can’t score we can’t lose.”

Only once during the week-long tournament did an opponent score double figures in goals against the Polo Pals.

In the final, Blake Parrish had the unenviable task of guarding 6-foot-5 Ben Hallock, a 2015 Harvard Westlake graduate, member of the U.S. Senior National team and a soon-to-be teammate of Parrish’s at Stanford.

“Ben is without question the best non-collegiate player in the U.S.,” said coach Parrish.

Hallock scored four goals in the final, while Blake Parrish managed two goals.

The Junior Olympics final was a special moment for the Parrish family. Besides winning a national championship, it marked the last time Chris Parrish would coach his eldest son.

Coach Parrish reflected on the moment.

“I truly felt that we had an opportunity (at Dos Pueblos) to win a CIF championship this last season but fell short, so upping the level and winning the most difficult age-group national title together was perhaps the best father-son experience I have been fortunate enough to be a part of.”

Santa Barbara Premier Boys 16s finished fourth in the Championship Division.

Santa Barbara Premier Club Boys 16s finished fourth in the Championship Division.

In other Junior Olympics action, the Santa Barbara Premier Club’s Boys 18s won their last three matches and finished in seventh place in the Championship Division. They defeated Pittsburgh WP 16-6 in the seventh-place game.

Santa Barbara Premier finished fourth in the Boys 16s Championship Division. It lost a tough 12-9 semifinal game against eventual champion Northwood.

Santa Barbara 805 placed fourth in the Girls 10s division.

Santa Barbara 805 placed fourth in the Girls 10s Division.

Santa Barbara Premier defeated CC United 13-8 to place 17th in the Boys 14s Classic Division. The club placed 23rd in the Boys 12s Championship Division.

In the 10-under girls competition, Santa Barbara 805 placed fourth and Santa Barbara Premier took sixth place.

Santa Barbara Premier finished sixth in the Girls 10s division.

Santa Barbara Premier finished sixth in the Girls 10s Division.