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Local teams claim 3 platinum division gold medals at USA Water Polo Junior Olympics

The Costa Mesa Aquatics Club 12-and-under co-ed team and coach Olivia Schwartz.
The Costa Mesa Aquatics Club 12-and-under co-ed team and coach Olivia Schwartz, bottom, celebrate after winning the USA Water Polo Junior Olympics 12-and-under mixed platinum division title on Sunday.
(Jose De La Jara)

The Costa Mesa Aquatics Club has won gold medals at the USA Water Polo Junior Olympics before — but never in the top division.

That changed Sunday.

Costa Mesa Aquatics Club stormed back to claim a 10-6 victory over Bay Area-based Sharks for the Junior Olympics 12-and-under mixed platinum division title match at Woollett Aquatics Center in Irvine.

They were one of three local divisions to earn platinum division titles in Session Two of the tournament, joining Newport’s 12-and-under girls and Vanguard’s 14-and-under girls.

“A lot of these kids have been playing together for four or five years, and it’s just been building toward this moment,” CMAC coach Olivia Schwartz said. “We’ve just been working with Splashball and 10U, putting all of their years of hard work together. That’s what got them to this point here … it’s amazing.”

In its historic win, CMAC had to rally from a 5-2 first-half deficit. But the local club was able to do so, led by division MVP Kamryn Anderson. One of six girls on the mixed-gender team, Anderson had two goals, seven steals and four assists in the final.

Madison Mack led CMAC with three goals, while Jay Larson and Sadira Anavim had two goals each. Dominic Diaz also scored for the winners, who also got contributions from Evan Gruebel, Anna Burtnyk, George Garcia, Thomas Mauser, McKenna Mack, Jude McClellan, Dylan Morales, Lucy Sanchez, Noah Rothbard, Hudson Morris and Conner Benavidez.

“They’re always timid out the gate,” Schwartz said. “Usually, once they shake off those nerves, we’re on fire.”

Newport girls claim 12U crown: The Newport Water Polo Club 12-and-under girls also rallied for a platinum division title Sunday, winning 7-4 over 680 Drivers of the Bay Area.

Newport trailed 2-1 at halftime and 3-2 after three quarters, but exploded for five goals in the fourth quarter for the victory.

Newport’s Gabby Alexson had three goals in the final for MVP honors. Sadie Ricks scored twice while Addison Ting and Valery Verdugo scored one goal each.

Goalkeeper Terra Sage Lindberg made seven saves for Newport. Keira Bethell, Caroline Daniel, Sutton Lohman, Campbell Pence, Charmae Price, Mary White and Julia Winkelmann also contributed.

“It felt amazing,” Alexson said. “If it wasn’t for our teamwork, we wouldn’t have won … We knew this was our last game as a team together, so we really pushed hard.”

Former Corona del Mar High School girls’ coach Kevin Ricks led the Newport girls to victory.

Vanguard 14U girls win title: The Vanguard Aquatics 14-and-under team also earned a title, in exciting fashion.

Huntington Beach-based Vanguard beat North Irvine 10-7 in a penalty shootout, after the teams were tied 7-7 through regulation.

Vanguard featured four girls — Kara Carver, Presley Jones, goalkeeper Siena Jumani and Estelle Karaba — who are incoming freshmen at Laguna Beach High School. Carver said it was the fourth Junior Olympics title for her and Jumani, while Jones won her fifth crown.

They loomed large in the final. Carver scored three goals, including once in the shootout, and Jones scored once. Jumani blocked three penalty shots, including the first two of the shootout.

“We’ve been practicing for so long with each other, this team’s like family,” Carver said. “It’s just been a really crazy year, and we’ve made the most out of it.”

Allison Cohen of Vanguard earned MVP honors.

Newport Beach 18Us, SET 16Us fall in final: The Newport Beach Water Polo Club 18-and-under girls lost to SOCAL Black 8-7 in a hotly contested platinum division gold-medal match on Sunday.

It was an impressive showing for Newport Beach, which played entirely with players from coach Ross Sinclair’s Newport Harbor High School girls’ water polo program. The only graduate on the team was center Olivia Giolas, headed to USC.

“I’m so proud of all of our girls,” Giolas said. “It’s not an easy feat to be able to come this far and do this well. We all played together as a team. We represented Newport the best way we could, and I am so proud of how we finished.”

Giolas and Alex Love each scored twice for Newport in the title match, while Taylor Smith, Morgan Netherton and Avery Montiel added one goal each. Goalkeeper Anna Reed made six saves.

Local players on SOCAL included CdM graduate Kaity Greenwald and Newport Beach resident Claire Eusey, who scored a goal in the final.

In the 16U title match, SET fell 10-6 to Santa Barbara 805. SET featured seven incoming sophomores and juniors from the Laguna Beach girls’ water polo program, including starting goalkeeper Natasha Denny. Laguna Beach’s Myha Pinto and CdM’s Mia Bernhoit each scored for SET in the final.

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