Two water polo teams from (SHAQ) finished in the Top 25 in the nation and a third came home with a medal in its division thanks to impressive performances at the recent National Junior Olympics in Irvine.
The SHAQ 12-and-under girls, who entered the tournament as the 21st seed, won five matches in a row at one point en route to a 12th-place finish in the Platinum Division, the highest level of competition in each age group. There were 29 teams in the 12U tournament.
“They were the highlight of the whole tournament for us,” gushed coach Matt Swanson, whose club sent seven teams to the prestigious competition. “It was amazing in that no one had played competitively before this season.”
Leading the way were three San Anselmo girls -- Augusta Lewis, who had the game-winning shot in one win; Leyla Waters, one of the team’s top scorers; and Kate Christie, a left-hander who was one of the team’s best passers.
“The defense was phenomenal,” Swanson added. “They beat some teams from Los Angeles and San Diego that they had no business beating.”
The SHAQ 14U girls squad defeated South Coast 7-6 in its final match to claim the bronze medal in the Gold Division. The team went to Irvine as the 34th seed and finished 27th overall among 46 teams, but third-best in the second-highest division.
San Anselmo’s Paige Waters, the goalie, was the hero of one win, blocking a penalty shot to save the game. Two other San Anselmo girls – standouts Quinn Galli and Kendall Christie – led the way.
The top placing for the SHAQ boys came from the 14-and-under team, which went 4-4 to improve from its No. 30 seeding to a 22nd-place finish among 48 teams.
“The team way overachieved,” Swanson praised. “They beat some teams that were not expecting to lose to a small club from Marin County. It (angered) a lot of (the opponents’) parents.”
sophomore Wally Venne, the goalie, had 15 saves in a 7-6 win over Clovis. Fellow Drake sophomore Marcus Anderson was an unstoppable offensive force, scoring 6-8 goals each game.
Four other teams reprepresented SHAQ at the Junior Olympics.
The 16U girls recorded three wins by one goal apiece en route to a 5-3 record and a fifth-place finish in the Bronze Division. San Anselmo’s Lauren Emge was one of the team’s big scorers, while the twins – Julia and Isabel – were defensive standouts.
The 12U boys had a four-match winning streak en route to a seventh-place finish in the Gold Division. Goalie Stefan Venne, playing in his first major tournament, played brilliantly. San Anselmo’s Keenan Anderson and Wyatt Hanson were the offensive standouts.
The 16U boys, who were seeded last among 48 teams in their age group, surprised three of their final four opponents – including the 22nd seed – en route to a 17th-place finish in the Gold Division. Drake junior David Ross and sophomore Mitch Young led the way.
And the 18U boys won their first match of the tournament, then settled for 18th place in the Silver Division of their competition. Goalie Dylan Murphy of San Anselmo blocked five penalty shots to highlight the team’s performance.
Overall, the seven SHAQ teams finished with a 29-27 record in the national competition.