The Stanford 18A girls closed the USA Water Polo National Junior Olympics the same way they opened them — with a victory.
"It's always better to finish with a win than a loss," said Stanford head coach Jessica Cima on Sunday.
Stanford finished the four-day tournament in Orange County with an 11-8 victory over Lamorinda at Buena Park High. That gave Stanford 11th place and a 4-4 mark in the nation's largest age-group water polo event.
"The losses we had were significant," Cima said. "But, in hindsight, we had a lot of success against teams that rank among the best in the nation. There’s a lot to look forward to next year.”
The Stanford 18A team took a 2-0 mark into the second day, which saw losses to Newport Beach and SET Gray. Newport Beach played for the division title on Sunday, dropping an 8-7 decision to SoCal Black A while SET played for third, losing to 680 Red A 6-4.
The last time Stanford played in this tournament, in 2019, the then-16s finished 15th. Thus, Sunday's finish was a solid improvement.
"The focus today was that we were competitive with the top teams," Cima said. "Top six was our goal, but finishing top 12 after a Covid year, limited practices and some things to overcome .... I'd say we had some great moments."
The final day of the Orange County-based tournament for girls and boys (they played last week) was a solid one. The 12A squad finished fifth with a 5-3 record following an 11-8 victory over the SC Tritons at El Segundo Aquatic Center. The 14A team also finished 5-3 and took 21st following a 10-2 win over SJ Express A at Capistrano Valley High. The 10A squad finished 3-4 in its round-robin division following a 16-3 drubbing of Lamorinda B at Laguna Hills High.
Stanford’s 12U team may have been the surprise of the tournament. The 12s were seeded 27th.
The only Stanford A team to fall on the final day was the 16s, who dropped a tough 9-8 decision to SoCal Gold B at Beckman High in Irvine. Stanford finished 4-4 and in 16th place.
The Stanford 16s looked headed toward a possible victory after grabbing leads of 3-2 after one quarter and 6-4 after three periods. SoCal Black, however, came roaring back to tally three unanswered goals and take a 7-6 lead.
Stanford rallied with back-to-back goals from Vivian Golub from Menlo School and Riley Hocker from Sacred Heart Prep, the last one coming with 3:21 to play. SoCal Gold, however, scored twice more and held off a final attempt by Stanford to secure 15th place.
Sydney Lowell from Castilleja led Stanford with three goals with Golub adding two. Megan Newby from Castilleja and Kira Clark each added a solo goal.
SHP’s Natalie Szczerba was a driving force for the Stanford offense as she recorded several assists.
For the Castilleja players, knowing that the Brenda Villa Aquatic Center in Commerce hosted several contests in the largest age-group water polo tournament in the nation had to be special.
Villa, an Olympic gold medalist and a member of the Stanford Hall of Fame and the Water Polo Hall of Fame, coaches at Castilleja.
Mayfield 650A (2-5) fell to Riverside 10-8 in a shootout and placed 24th overall. Mayfield was seeded No. 29. The game was tied at 5-5 in regulation.
In the 16 Classic Division, Mayfield 650B earned a 12-10 shootout victory over Southern at Villa Park High to place ninth overall. It was 9-9 in regulation.
The 16Bs (4-3) finished strong, winning three of their final four games.
In the 14 Championship Division, 47th-seeded Mayfield 650 (1-6) lost to Alameda 16-5 at Capistrano Valley High and finished 20th.