Newport Harbor’s Kai Kaneko steps up for U.S. Cadet men’s water polo team

Newport Harbor's Kai Kaneko plays against JSerra in 2023.
Newport Harbor’s Kai Kaneko, shown playing against JSerra in the CIF Southern Section Open Division title match on Nov. 11, 2023, helped Team USA place fifth in Malta.
(James Carbone)
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Kai Kaneko stepped up to the challenge for the U.S. men’s water polo Cadet National Team.

Kaneko, an incoming junior at Newport Harbor High, was a major scoring threat for Team USA at the 2024 World Aquatics U16 Water Polo Championships, played in Gzira, Malta.

He helped the U.S. teenagers earn fifth place at the tournament, beating Greece 17-16 in a shootout Monday.

Newport Harbor coach Ross Sinclair was the head coach for Team USA.

The U.S. beat Israel, the Netherlands and New Zealand to finish group play undefeated. The Americans then beat Brazil in the crossover round before losing to Spain, 14-9, in the quarterfinals.


But Team USA rebounded for a 12-9 win over Serbia in the classification round, and the fifth-place win over Greece.

Kaneko, an attacker, led Team USA with five goals in the 14-7 group play win over the Netherlands, and scored a team-best three goals against Spain. He also had four goals against Serbia, bringing him to 19 goals for the tournament headed into the final match.

Newport Harbor incoming sophomore Gabby Alexson has been named to the U.S. Cadet women’s team roster for the Women’s U16 Championships, which begin Friday in Turkey. Alexson, an emerging center, helped the Cadet women earn bronze at the Pan Am Aquatics Under 19 championships in El Salvador last month.