Newport Beach kids lead Anteater to gold

After two one-goal losses during the first day of competition at the USA Junior Olympics, the 12U Anteater Water Polo Club ran off eight straight wins to take the gold medal in the Champions Gold Division Tuesday.

All 15 players on the Anteater roster call Newport Beach home.

In this year's USA Water Polo's 44th annual Junior Olympics, Anteater suffered two tough losses in pool play to Greenwich Aquatics (Conn.) and CC United Black on Saturday. The team used the losses as motivation to win all of its remaining games over the next three days to take the championship.

Anteater won the next seven games convincingly against La Jolla, CC Sharks, NSD Stars, MV Polo, Chula Vista Aquatics, SHAQ and Sharks. The team met its biggest challenge in the final against a familiar opponent, Greenwich Aquatics. The game was decided by one point again, but this time Anteater was on the winning end.

Anteater received strong offensive performances from Caden Strauss, Connor McManigal, Kaveh Moadeli and Shane Papa. The game went back and forth for the first two periods before Anteater jumped out to an 8-5 lead. But the Greenwich Aquatics team did not back down and scored three straight goals to tie the game with 2:10 left in the game. With 1:40 left, McManigal scored on a skip shot from well beyond five meters and Anteater held on for the win.

"I am very proud of how our team bounced back from a tough first day," said Jesse Briggs, who is the Anteater team's coach and also the Anteater Program Director. "They worked hard as a team and improved throughout the tournament and ended up with the championship."

The Anteater team includes Newport Beach residents, goalie Makana Sanita, Connor McManigal, Michael Paduano, Kaveh Moadeli, Shane Papa, Brannon Syler, Caden Strauss, Jonathan Lefebvre, Cole Callin, Tommy Kennedy, Cole Fischer, Ben Siegel, Hayes Wueste, Logan Bernhoit and Justin Cottrell.

The Anteater club also fielded a 14U team that placed 11th and the only 10U all girls team in the first year of that division. The Anteater 10U coed and 12U girls teams begin play Thursday.

More than 500 teams and 8,000 athletes were expected to compete for national championship titles in 18 divisions at USA Water Polo's 44th annual Junior Olympics.

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