Welcome to the SwimRVA Rapids USA Water Polo Junior Olympics Recap! We brought a 16U Boys team to Dallas, TX at the end of July to compete against some of the best water polo clubs in the country. Our boys played their hearts out for eight games over four days compiling 2 wins and 6 losses.
On the first day of the Junior Olympics, each team played what is called placement games in order to separate the tournament into a Platinum and a Gold group. Our first two games were against Viper Pigeon Electric Blue and West Suburban losing 21-3 and 18-4 respectively. While the games were a rough start for our first ever Junior Olympic experience, I think it was helpful for the boys to play against two VERY high-level teams. It is also worth noting that West Suburban took 1st place in Platinum and Viper Pigeon took 4th confirming those two teams were among the best in the country. Our final day concluded with a VERY late game against the Houston Storm, in which we lost 17-9. With our first game starting at 8:30 AM and our last game ending around 10:30 PM it was a long day for the kids and parents who took the trip to support the team. I am proud of the fight they put up to keep the energy going throughout a long Day 1.
We started play on Day 2 in the Gold division. The experience of day one showed as the kids gained experience in the flow of the game along with the officiating which really got the ball rolling. We started with a win against Cowtown 15-10 and a win against Zilla Green 13-6. It was huge for our boys to bounce back from a difficult schedule on Day 1 and get two big wins which propelled the Rapids into the Top 8 in the Gold Division. I was extremely proud of the kids that regardless of the result of the game each athlete was able to find positives and carry them into the next game.
Based on our two wins on Day 2 the Rapids were seeded 4th in the Gold division semi-finals. Being the fourth-ranked team was a huge turnaround compared to Day 1 but also left us in a position where we had to beat the #1 seed to move forward in the tournament. With a win, we would have been done for the day and poised for the championship on Day 4. Unfortunately, our team took a loss to Colorado, 18-11. Colorado did go on to take first place in the Gold division, meaning our boys got to play the best competition possible at every level of the tournament. The loss against Colorado moved us into the Play-In game against Zilla Black which was another hard-fought game. We had a very slow start, going down 5-0 quickly in the first quarter. After that wake-up, our kids clawed back taking Zilla goal for goal all the way through the rest of the game. The end result was a 15-10 loss to Zilla, putting us into the 5th place game in the Gold division.
Day 4 was the final day of the Junior Olympics, giving us one game against Southside where we put up a good effort but we lost 18-11. The SwimRVA Rapids finished in 6th place in the Gold division.
There were a lot of moving parts that went into making this trip successful. We had a little bit of help from our friends in Virginia Beach with the addition of Sam Lindsey, Tyler Kampfe, Ean Moore, Thomas Bibeau, and Coach Kent McKee. Heading to a National tournament with only THREE practices as a team under our belt was tough and the learning curve was huge. Every single day we saw improvement both individually and as a team; however, the end result was a strong and competitive water polo team. Our 16U Captain, Koji Wood, was among the highest scoring athletes in the entire tournament with a WHOPPING 32 goals over 8 games. All of our team’s parents throughout the week were super supportive both at the games and in planning meals, transportation, and anything else the team needed. A BIG shout out to Hitomi Wood, who even figured out a way to have our last game live streamed and had several viewers supporting us online.
2022 marks the first year that a team from Virginia has been represented in the USA Water Polo Junior Olympics and it was a historic run for our boys. Not only did we field the first team ever from Virginia, we made a good statement with a 6th place finish. I think this was a pivotal point for our program and cannot wait for future teams to make the trip to Junior Olympics and continue the tradition of hard work, courage, success, and persistence that our boys set for us this year.