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Laguna girls bring home gold, silver and bronze from 2019 Water Polo Junior Olympics 

Last weekend in Irvine, Laguna Beach girls in three divisions again brought home medals from the 50th annual USA Water Polo Junior Olympics National Championship. Junior Olympics is the world’s largest water polo tournament, this year hosting 866 qualifying teams from across the United States. 

For the third consecutive year, Laguna’s 12U girls earned a gold medal and the National Championship title in the top Championship Division. Laguna’s 14U “A” team, playing in the finals for the 3rd consecutive year, won a silver medal in the Championship Division. The Laguna 14U “B” team won a bronze medal in the Classic Division. 

Laguna girls 12U

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Photo by KLC Fotos

12U Girls (L-R): Coach Marc Umeda, Siena Jumani, Molly Wilkerson (co-MVP), Elizabeth Nicoloff, Maya Tovar, Kaelyn Chism, Kara Carver, Presley Jones, Kirra Pantaleon, Katelyn Stayt, Sofia Umeda (co-MVP), and Coach Rob Carver

“A gold, silver and bronze was a great JOs result for our girls. I am very proud of how hard they all worked,” said Laguna Beach Water Polo Club Director Chad Beeler. 

The 12U Girls started the tournament on Thursday with an 18-1 win over Arroyo Grande and an 18-2 win over the Trojan USC club team. Friday, the girls beat Huntington Beach 18-3 and Long Beach Shores 14-12. Thanks to two wins on Friday, the team only needed to play one game on Saturday, and beat Northwood 9-7 to go directly to the semis on Sunday. They then beat Vanguard 11-5, earning a spot in the finals against Los Angeles Premier, winning 12-8 for a gold medal. 

Laguna girls 14U

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14U A Girls (L-R): Lauren Schneider, Livvie Oullette, Jordan Schneider, Avery Montiel, Ava Knepper, Charlotte Riches, Cleo Washer, Helene MacBeth, Lauren Short, and Myha Pinto

Also playing in the Championship Division, the 14U A girls started out Thursday with a pair of wins, 17-0 over American River and 14-4 over Stanford. On Friday, the girls prevailed in a tough game over Santa Barbara Premier, 8-5. Their streak continued with a 6-3 win over Corona Del Mar. The 14U A girls also only had to play one game on Saturday, a nice 10-6 win over the other Santa Barbara team, SB 805. 

The girls proceeded directly to the semis on Sunday morning, where they crushed San Diego Shores 9-1. The championship game against SOCAL

was a defense-led battle, and the ninth meeting this season between these top two US 14U teams. The previous eight games were split between four wins for Laguna and four wins for SOCAL. The Laguna girls went out hard, taking the lead in the first quarter. Despite a scoreless third quarter for both teams, SOCAL ended up with 5-2 win and the Laguna girls earning a silver medal. 

Laguna girls 14U B

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Photo by KLC Fotos

14U B Girls: Back row (L-R) – Sophia Arata, Taylor Naughton, Makenna Jenal, Nina Rogers, Eleanor Ramsey, Sophie Colladay, Chiara Amoroso, and Ryley McDennon; Bottom row (L-R) – Rebecca Storke, Claire Turner, Grace Fermelia, and Coach Bridgette Alvarez (missing is Bella Nenadov)

Playing in the Classic Division, the 14U B team’s first game on Thursday saw a win over Gold Coast 17-1 followed by a loss to SOCAL B 6-8. On Friday the girls won both their games, 10-7 over San Diego Shores B and a 9-3 win over Santa Barbara Premier B. As with the 12U and 14U A teams, the 14U B girls also only had to play one game on Saturday. This was against San Clemente Tritons who they beat 6-5, taking them directly to the semis on Sunday morning. This close game against the SET B team resulted in a shoot-out loss. The bronze medal game saw the girls again play the SOCAL B team, in a high-scoring 15-13 bronze medal-winning game.