"We took a similar path two years ago," Barnea said. "We were second at the Cal Cup, second at the Club Championships and first at Junior Olympics."
Barnea isn't making any predictions at this time, but his 18U squad is perhaps headed in that direction and certainly has the talent to make 2008 happen all over again. In fact, he still has a solid core of players from that JO championship squad.
That group includes goalie Ben Dearborn, Connor Still, Colin Mulcahy, Thomas Agramonte, Alex Bailey, Philip Bamberg, David Culpan, Robert Dunlevie, Mark Garner, John Holland-McCowan and Peter Simon. There are only four new players to the team -- Christian Broom, Brian Morton, Peter Olson and Jed Springer.
The Stanford 18U squad reaffirmed its status as being one of the best teams in the nation with its second-place finish on Sunday following an 8-4 loss to Rose Bowl at Norco High.
"We know we can play with any team in the country," said Barnea, who coached Stanford to a 4-1-1 record during the four-day event. "It was a long weekend. (But) The guys played extremely hard."
Barnea was both disappointed and encouraged by the runnerup finish. While he goes into every tournament with the expectation of winning it, the fact that his team didn't play the type of game it needed to leaves room for improvement. And it's likely better to head into the Junior Olympics without being the top seed, as Stanford was for this event.
Stanford opened with a 15-7 win over Xtreme before beating Pacific Northwest United, 15-4. Following a tough 7-7 deadlock with a good San Diego Shores team that didn't hurt its No. 1 rank in pool play, Stanford advanced to be LA Water Polo Club (8-6) before upending SET (Saddleback El Toro) in the semifinals, 9-4. That victory avenged Stanford's loss to SET in the JO 16s championship match last summer at Stanford.
"We just kind of crushed them," Barnea said. "That was a great win for our guys."
It also might have left them a little flat for the championship match, which saw Rose Bowl grab leads of 3-0 and 5-1 before Stanford finally rallied and got to within 7-4 heading into the final quarter.
"We just didn't play the type of game we needed to play," said Barnea, who had Dearborn and Agramonte named to the all-tournament team..
Fortunately for Barnea and his players, there's plenty of time to rest up and get ready for the Junior Olympics, which will be held in the Los Angeles area beginning July 31. Most of the players will return to their high school teams the week before JOs for the High School Championships in Southern California. Sacred Heart Prep, St. Francis, Menlo, Palo Alto and Menlo-Atherton are expected to compete.
The Stanford 18U boys were just one nine teams that competed last weekend. For the boys, the Stanford 16U went 4-2 and finished seventh with a 9-8 victory over SET. The Stanford 14U team finished fourth despite a 4-4 mark, finishing with an 8-3 loss to SET. Stanford's Harrison Enright was named to the all-tournament team. The Stanford 12U squad went 3-1 and finished 11th.
The Stanford 16U team featured Connor Dillon, Maxwell Draga, Casey Fleming, David Freudenstein, Patrick Goodenough, Alex Gow, Nick Hale, Ben Hendricks, Matt Leyrat, Cory McGee, Ben Pickard, Cullen Raisch, Max Schell, Caleb Terzich and Adam Warmouth.
In the girls' competition, the NorCal 18U squad fashioned a solid 4-2 record and wound up seventh following an 8-6 victory over SET.
"We had a pretty adventurous weekend," said NorCal coach Chris Dorst. "This was a great big chance for us to test ourselves against some very good teams. It was a great lead-in for JOs. I was thrilled with the weekend."
NorCal opened with a 10-3 win over the North San Diego Stars and followed that with an 8-7 win over Pacific Northwest United (of Washington). That earned NorCal a match with the host team, CHAWP, of the Chino Hills area. NorCal pulled off a huge 15-10 victory.
In a crossover match, NorCal dropped a 7-3 match to Diablo and fell to San Diego Shores in penalty shots, 10-7. In the seventh-place game, NorCal beat the defending JO champion SET team.
"It was a great step toward where we want to be," Dorst said. "We played five very good programs. If that was the measuring stick, we're right up there."
The Stanford girls' 18U team finished 3-3 for 10th, the Stanford 16U girls were 1-4 while taking eighth and the NorCal 16s were 1-4 while finishing 12th. The Stanford 14U girls went 2-4 and took 13th.
The Stanford 18U team dropped a 16-7 decision to Diablo in its opener after starting slowly and then fell to SET, 14-8, which went on to beat Diablo later in the day. Stanford salvaged pool play by showing lots of improvement in a 12-10 victory.
"Our counter-attack and counter defense looked much better in this game," said Stanford coach Cory Olcott. "And, we controlled the pace."
In a crossover game with the North San Diego Stars, Stanford jumped out early but then gave up the lead and fell behind, 10-6, midway through the third period.
"The team showed terrific poise, however, and rallied for five unanswered goals to take the game, 11-10," Olcott said. That set the stage for a semifinal match against an old rival, Commerce, a traditional powerhouse.
"Instead of being intimidated, the girls used their reputation as motivation," Olcott explained. "Playing our beset game of the weekend, the team dominated the game."
Stanford posted a big 12-3 victory, but wasn't able to follow up that big win and dropped a 9-8 match to Xtreme in the ninth-place game.
"Our last game was a bit of a letdown," Olcott said. "Again, we rallied from three goals down but, in the end, could not quite get over the hump.
"Overall, this is the sort of performance you like to have at this stage of the season," continued Olcott, "for it shows you how good you can be — at times we looked fantastic — while still helping to bring some areas of improvement into sharp relief."
In the girls' 16U division, Stanford opened with a 7-6 win over NorCal and a 7-1 loss to Santa Barbara, the eventual champion. Stanford then played SET, the runnerup team, and battled to a deadlock before finally falling, 11-8. Sacred Heart Prep's Pippa Temple had six goals before adding four more in a 12-11 loss to LA Water Polo Club. Stanford trailed 11-5 in the fourth quarter before rallying to within one with a minute left. LAWPC scored with 32 seconds left for a 12-10 match before Temple answered 10 seconds later. LAWPC then ran out the clock for the victory. Gunn's Elizabeth Anderson played a big role in the comeback and was solid at both ends of the pool.
In the game for seventh place, Stanford fell behind Commerce early before Palo Alto's Skylar Dorosin found the net. Stanford eventually fell, 14-3.
In the 14U competition, Stanford dropped its first four matches before winning its final two while taking 13th.
"Overall, I think we did a great job," said coach Kelsey Holshouser, who just graduated from Stanford following a standout polo career there. "Two of those (four) losses were one-goal games and the girls did an excellent job of continuing to fight until the end of games, as we were down by a couple of goals going into the fourth quarter for both of those one-goal games.
"Fortunately, we ended the tournament with two big wins. One our wins came against 680 (9-8), which is a team that we recently lost to so it was good to see that we are making some improvements. We also beat SET (11-5) . . . and played a very solid game against them. Our defense is looking awesome, but sometimes we have trouble scoring goals."
Holshouser said she is looking forward to get back to practice and work on the team's weaknesses.
"Hopefully," she said, "we will be able to make some big strides before we head back to the LA area for our JO tournament."
All the other local water polo coaches are probably thinking the same thing.