The Santa Barbara 805 Water Polo Club’s 14-under girls team won the bronze medal at the USA Water Polo Champions Cup in Houston. (Courtesy photo)

The 805 Santa Barbara Water Polo Club’s 14U girls team claimed the Bronze Medal at USA Water Polo’s Champions Cup at the University of Houston in Texas on Sunday. 

The 805 squad defeated San Diego Shores 7-3 in the Bronze Medal game.

In bracket play on Friday, Santa Barbara crushed a Chicago Parks team, 8-3, and then fell to eventual champion Socal,10-5.  Facing elimination on Saturday, Santa Barbara defeated a tough Greenwich team in the morning to advance to the quarterfinals.  

The scoring of Charlotte Raisin helped 805 open up an early lead against San Diego Shores in the bronze medal game.

The scoring of Charlotte Raisin helped 805 open up an early lead against San Diego Shores in the bronze medal game. (Courtesy photo)

Saturday evening, 805 faced perennial powerhouse Commerce Water Polo Club, a team that blew out eventual champion Socal 9-4 in the morning crossover. Coaches Cathy Neushul and Aaron Syvertson scouted Commerce, detected weakness in goal, and instructed their shooters to “finish every single offensive sequence with a shot on goal no matter what.” 

Led by Charlotte Raisin, Santa Barbara surged to a three-goal lead in the first quarter that expanded to four goals in the third.  Commerce rebounded to tie the match late in the fourth quarter with a long-distance attack of their own.  

With seconds to go, a Raisin set-play shot barred out and the game went to a shootout.  Neither team scored in the first round so the duel went to sudden death.  A Commerce bar-out late in the second round advanced 805 to the semifinal against Northwood.  

Coach Neushul called the quarterfinal victory “a tribute to our resilience under pressure, especially since we are a young team overall.” 

In Sunday’s semifinal, Santa Barbara faced SOPAC Zone foe Northwood Water Polo Club.  Bolstered by the addition of players from Laguna Beach, Northwood dominated the first half of play and stifled a fourth-quarter 805 surge to win 12-5.

In the third-placd game with San Diego Shores, Neushul again unleashed 805’s outside shooters.  Led by Raisin and Layla Szymczak, Santa Barbara opened up an early lead and then used a stifling press to keep Shores off the board.  

Abby Webber, with coach Cathy Neushul, was presented the Maureen O’Toole Sportsmanship Award.

Abby Webber, with coach Cathy Neushul, was presented the Maureen O’Toole Sportsmanship Award. (Courtesy photo)

A brilliant turn to score by Lucy Haaland-Ford, a Raisin drawn-penalty conversion and a natural goal from Addison Parrish, and a driving goal by Abby Weber helped Santa Barbara open up a 6-0 lead at the half.  805’s defense locked down Shores in the final two quarters as the team cruised to a 7-3 victory.

Coaching his first Champions Cup, Syvertson called the victory “a bright light for the future. “Our young team outplayed a bigger, older Shores team—watch for 805’s 12 and 14 girls at this Summer’s Junior Olympics.”

Led by head coach Cathy Neushul and  Syvertson, the 14s include HanaLora Abel, Lily Bordofsky, Marina Brown, Franki Court, Tatum Dougherty, Lucy Haaland-Ford, Katelyn Parker, Addison Parrish, Charlotte Raisin, Layla Szymczak and Abby Webber.  Megan Garner played in goal for 805.

Abby Webber received the Maureen O’Toole Sportsmanship Award.

“This was a solid team effort” said Neushul. “We have a mix of veterans and some of the best new talent I’ve seen in 20 years of coaching.  Look out for this generation of 805 girls.  They will be one of our best ever.”