Stanford 18s win
gold medal after
two losses to rival
If he wasn't before, Brian Kreutzkamp is a firm believer that, yes, a third time indeed can be a charm.
It was only a few weeks ago that his Stanford Water Polo Club Red 18U boys' team was playing in the US Club Championships in Moraga. Stanford had reached the championship match against Regency of Southern California.
"They destroyed us," Kreutzkamp recalled. "They beat us by five goals, but it could have been worse. They just crushed us."
Fast forward to Monday's fifth match of the 2011 SwimOutlet.com Junior Olympics in Orange County. Stanford once again put an unbeaten record on the line against Regency, a team with a core of players from private school power Mater Dei. Stanford lost again, 9-6.
"We were within a goal in the fourth quarter," Kreutzkamp explained. "We had a chance."
The important thing, Kreutzkamp said, was that his team improved from the club championships to Monday.
"Each game we got closer," he said. "I think that gave the (Stanford) guys a feeling they could hang with them."
Stanford rebounded from that loss to Regency and won two more matches to reach Tuesday's championship match at the William Woollett Aquatic Center in Irvine. Not too surprising, Regency was the opponent.
"You know what they say, it's tough to beat a team three times," Kreutzkamp said of Regency's position.
While three wasn't a charm for Regency, it was for Stanford as it rolled to a 15-11 victory for the program's first Junior Olympic gold medal since 2008 and the first gold by the Red 18-under team since 1993.
"We kept learning every time we played them," Kreutzkamp said. "We kept getting better."
The Stanford Red 18s, who finished eighth in last year's Junior Olympics but came in this season with a veteran team, set a reachable goal.
"Our goal, at first, was to get a medal, get back to the Final Four," said Kreutzkamp, whose team accomplished that with a 9-7 quarterfinal victory over Santa Barbara Water Polo Club 'A' in Monday's second match.
At that point, Kreutzkamp and his players believed they could win a medal. An 11-9 semifinal triumph over San Diego Shores 'A' on Tuesday morning provided that opportunity.
"We had a team meeting before the finals," said Kreutkamp, "and I said to them, 'We have a medal in our pocket, it's up to you to pick the color.'"
Stanford picked gold, and earned it with a dominating performance over a much-bigger and stronger Regency team.
"It wasn't even close," Kreutzkamp said. "We were up by one at the half but up by five in the fourth quarter."
The difference in the finals was Stanford's man-up advantages.
"We converted six of seven power plays," Kreutzkamp said. "When we had our chances, we scored."
While veteran Colin Mulcahy was named the tournament's Most Valuable Player, Kreutzkamp said goalie Alex Gow (from Menlo-Atherton) was the key player in the finals.
"He had 18 saves. He played out of his mind," Kreutzkamp said. "Once he started blocking shots, the guys felt comfortable to take off once a shot was taken — figuring Alex would block it."
Gow's outstanding defense triggered Stanford's counter attack.
"We wanted to turn it into a swim meet," Kreutzkamp explained. "They (Regency) got kicked out a lot because they were grabbing as we went by them."
It was pretty much a feeling of deja vu for Kreutzkamp, who coached the Stanford Red 16U team to a gold medal in 2008. Six of his current players were on that team, which played the title match in the same pool at the Woolett Aquatic Center.
"Same pool, same core of guys," Kreutzkamp said. "It felt like it was three years ago."
Those six players — Philip Bamberg, Mark Garner, Peter Simon, Robert Dunlevie, Thomas Agramonte and Mulcahy — won two gold medals and one silver in four years. All but Dunlevie have played together for seven years, with Dunlevie joining the group in 2006.
All that experience paid off once again and provided teammates Daniel Schwartz, Alex Bagdasarian, Dante Cavazos, Casey Fleming, Patrick Goodenough, Nick Hale, Max Schell, Adam Warmoth and Gow with their first gold after finishing 7-1 over the four-day tourney.
Kreutzkamp, head coach at Sacred Heart Prep during the school year, celebrated by jumping into the pool with Bamberg, one of his former SHP players. The rest of the team quickly followed.
"I'm exhausted," Kreutzkamp said on Wednesday morning after flying home Tuesday night. "It's been three weeks in a row (of tournaments, two in Orange County). A tough three weeks."
But, a satisfying three weeks?
"Very much so," said Kreutzkamp, "especially after this."
Also on the final day of the Junior Olympics:
The Stanford White 18U boys' water polo team wrapped up a 4-3-1 performance with a 13-10 loss to South Pasadena in the Gold Division finale at Costa Mesa High. Stanford reached the finals with a 14-4 win over San Diego Shores 'B' earlier in the day.
In boys' 16s action, Stanford Red (5-3-1) finished fourth following a 7-6 loss to SoCal Black while Stanford White (2-5) finished in the 21-24 position with a 17-1 rout of Puget Sound.
In boys' 14s, Stanford Red (5-1-1) defeated Rose Bowl Red, 10-9, to take ninth in the Platinum Division while Stanford White (4-4) finished strongly and took 13th in the Gold Division with a 3-2 win over Chicago Park District.
In boys' 12s, Stanford Red (5-2-1) took 17th in the Platinum Division with an 8-7 win over Greenwich Aquatics while Stanford White (1-6) finished in the 19-22 position after dropping a 10-9 decision to Clovis.
The girls' Junior Olympics got under way on Thursday and will continue through Sunday, also in Orange County.