The Santa Barbara Water Polo Club Sixth Grade/13 and Under Girls team repeated as champions in its age group this year at the prestigious San Diego County Cup water polo tournament last weekend. The County Cup is one of the largest tournaments in the country for eighth grade and under water polo — with 148 teams and approximately 2,225 boys and girls participating at 12 venues around San Diego County. Santa Barbara’s sixth-grade girls’ team took the only gold for the club this year.

Coach Allen Lorentzen says the girls have improved greatly over the last few months, both individually and as a team. Whether they had lots of playing time or restricted playing time, they each stepped up relative to prior experiences. Players on the team included Mary Brooks, Anna Brummett, Jessica Gaffney, Betsy Hendrix, Halie Johnson, Sophie Maes,  Erin McGeoy, Caroline Montgomery, Hannah Morelos, Maya Morelos, Ari St. Oegger, Paige Treloar-Ballard and Britten Vilander.

The team had two games May 2 at the Tierrasanta Community Pool. The first was a 12-7 win against Diablo, from the Bay Area. All of the starters and substitutes got in for a decent amount of playing time. The team then beat Davis, 11-3. Everyone got to play quite a bit in that game. Each of these opponents got an early advantage over Santa Barbara by a couple of points but then the girls just marched right past them. Highlights of the May 2 games included Hendrix playing out of her gourd and scoring and assisting numerous times! The team was very happy to have St. Oegger arrive just before game time after her dad picked her up at the boat dock following a week of camp at Catalina.

On May 3 at San Diego Mesa Community College, Santa Barbara played Laguna Beach to a fairly easy 8-5 win, and then beat Capistrano Valley, 10-8. The scores weren’t indicative of how much control Santa Barbar had. All of the girls got playing time.

Sunday’s semifinal game was at Mesa again. Santa Barbara played San Diego Shores and the girls really shut down their opponents after the first quarter. Shores was ahead 5-4 at the end of the first quarter before Santa Barbara put the iron clamps on them. The final score was 12-6. Santa Barbara outscored Shores, 8-1, in the last three quarters. To Santa Barbara’s credit, the core starting group played most of the game without subs and wore out the other team. Everyone got to play some in that game, although not a lot. Shores would go on to take the bronze with an overtime win against Diablo.

The championship game was against the Cal Baptist University club at Bud Kearns Memorial Recreation Pool. It was great to have a number of other Santa Barbara Water Polo Club players and fans stick around to watch the game — the last club game of the weekend. It was a very exciting game, with CBU shooting well at the start. Again, the Santa Barbara girls put the clamps on their opponents by pressing tight on the outside, fronting set when they could, and then pressing all the way out to the six-yard line or so — making it very hard to get off a good shot. Santa Barbara matched up as planned most of the time and wore out CBU. The girls frustrated their opponents’ top player so much that their coach took her out for a little pep talk in the first half. Santa Barbara extended the score enough to get a number of substitutes in for some good experience against CBU’s last-ditch effort to close the gap. Santa Barbara took a comfortable 8-5 win.

Significant keys to Santa Barbara’s success last weekend were teamwork and conditioning. The defense was excellent, leading to numerous counter attacks with some really pretty passing and finishes.

Brooks, St. Oegger and Vilander were selected to the all-tournament team.

Linda Masho is administrator of the Santa Barbara Water Polo Club.