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August 10, 2005

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Palo Alto Online

Publication Date: Wednesday, August 10, 2005
GIRLS' WATER POLO

Extra effort leads to medal Extra effort leads to medal (August 10, 2005)

Stanford club teams make successful run in Junior Olympics

by Rick Eymer

By the time Chris Rubin finished speaking to his Stanford Club 18-under girls' water polo team on Sunday, he could barely talk.

"It was a pretty crazy day," he said, his voice breaking occasionally. "We saw it all."

The Stanford 18-under club team claimed the bronze medal in the 48-team Junior Olympics held at various pools in San Jose over the weekend, the highest finish yet for the Stanford 18's.

Stanford rallied twice on the final day of competition to tie games in regulation and send it to a shootout. Stanford lost in the semifinals, 13-12, to Saddleback-El Toro, and then beat SoCal in the third-place contest, 14-13, as goalie Mary Hildebrand made a key save on SoCal's first shot.

Trailing 9-7, Menlo-Atherton High senior Kelly Eaton scored with 1:04 remaining to get Stanford close. Following a defensive stand to get the ball back, Stanford looked for a counter attack but called its final timeout with 38 seconds left.

The tying goal came when everyone lined up in front of the goal, setting a screen for Eaton, who popped back, took the pass from Hildebrand, and scored 15 seconds later to set up the winning shootout.

"It was hard because when the game ended, you're on such a high and all of a sudden you're saying your goodbyes," said Rubin, who will coach the varsity at Menlo-Atherton following three years as the JV coach. "It was so fun for me to work with these girls because they stuck with it despite a heart-breaking loss in the morning. They bucked up and played another great game and didn't give up even when they were down by two goals."

The Stanford girls' water polo club ended the summer with one of its best overall finishes yet. The 16A-under team, coached by Kyle Utsumi, finished fifth with an 8-3 victory over San Diego Shores. The 16B-under team finished 17th after downing Marin, 7-4.

The 14-under team, coached by Castilleja's Ted Minnis, placed sixth and the 12-under team finished ninth after beating SoCal, 6-5.

Stanford was one of a handful of programs who were represented in every age group.

"We were in a competitive situation with the best teams in the country," said Utsumi, who also coaches at Menlo School. "There was a lot of excitement. At least eight of the 18-year-olds have played since they were in 14-under. They have been great role models for the other girls.

"For the 16B team to get a national ranking of 17th is great," Utsumi added. "They finished with three wins in a tough bracket. Their only losses were to teams in the top 10. It's been a long summer but we're happy with the results."

The five teams combined to go 7-3 on Friday, the first day of the tournament. The 12-under team lost its two games but then battled back to finish in the top 10. The 14-under team split their first two matches.

The Stanford water polo program remains healthy because of people like Jenny Booth and Jessie Goldner: former club players who returned to coach. Booth is an assistant at Menlo School, and also helps Travis Wyckoff with the 16B team, Goldner, a two-time Central Coast Section Goalie of the Year while at Gunn High, assumed her first coaching duties with the 12-under team.

Goldner, a member of the Stanford club team which won the Senior Nationals in 2003, just graduated from Indiana, where she was a three-time CWPA All-Western Division selection, and immediately joined the coaching ranks at Stanford.

Utsumi's squad came from behind to beat LA Water Polo on Friday, a trend that would haunt the 16's until the fifth-place contest.

"That was one of our trouble spots but we grabbed an early lead (Sunday)," he said. "It was a group effort. We were focused on it from the starting lineup all the way through the roster."

The Stanford 18s reached the semifinals despite losing to Corona del Mar, which would not have been able to advance due to a conflicting commitment, in the quarterfinals due to a forfeit.

"There were some mixed feelings," Rubin said. "But we showed we belonged in the medal games. We couldn't ask for better results."

While Eaton scored most of the goals, she got offensive help from Palo Alto's Phoebe Champion and Remy Champion, and 2-meter player Lizzie Rouleau. Amanda Tipton and Natalie Chrisman were the top defenders.

"We always matched Amanda with the other team's star," Rubin said. "Eaton has speed and agility to find open pockets and she's able to find those pockets because we have so many threats that opponents can't leave any one open if they start to drive."

Another aspect of Stanford's club success is the number of athletes who will be playing in college in the fall. That list includes Remy Champion (Cal), Kelly Clark (Michigan), Chrisman (Cal), Jackie Friedberger (George Washington), Jacque Gowin (San Diego State), Kelsey Haley (Michigan), Hildebrand (UC San Diego), Natalie O'Farriell (USC), Tipton (UC Santa Barbara), Caitlin Vartain (George Washington), Brittany Webster (US Naval Academy) and Sioban Williams (UC San Diego).


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