Vanguard Aquatics had a stellar showing in Session 1 of the National Junior Olympic Tournament held last week in the San Francisco/Bay Area but centralized around Avery Aquatic Center at Stanford University.
The four-day event ended July 29.
The Huntington Beach-based club sent five teams to the first session, and all five teams performed well in the Championship Platinum division of the tournament. No other club in the nation had three teams from one program play in five of the national championship games.
Boys' 12-Under Blue
The 12-Under Blue team won the national championship under the direction of Head Coach Sasa Branisavljevic. This team had secured the top seed for the tournament and never lost a game throughout the session.
The 12U Blue squad posted double-digit victories against several opponents en route to the final where it faced rival SoCal Water Polo. The two teams had been battling for supremacy throughout the year through various USA Water Polo-sanctioned tournaments.
In the final, Vanguard jumped ahead early and took a three-goal lead only to see SoCal battle back to pull within one goal in the fourth quarter. However, with strong center play from Ethan Shipman and Myles Simpson, Vanguard pulled out a victory, 12-11.
The National Player of the Year was Jacob Pyle, goalie for the Vanguard 12U Blue team.
Boys' 14U Blue
The Vanguard 14U Blue squad claimed another national title, the second in as many years under the leadership of Head Coach Uros Dzelebdzic, who is an assistant water polo coach at Huntington Beach High School, and assistant Coach Ian Arnold (Huntington Beach High alumnus).
The 14U team had only lost games when playing a division up (16U) over the course of the year.
Throughout the Junior Olympic tournament, Vanguard had strong play from Cadet National team members Wyatt Benson, Ashworth Molthen and Jacob Cavano.
In the final game against Sleepy Hallow Aquatics (SHAQ), a physical and well-played game by both squads ended with a tie score at the end of regulation play. In a shootout to decide the winner, Vanguard goalie Noah Hodge blocked three consecutive SHAQ shots leading into the second round of penalty shots. Vanguard won the match. 9.4-9.3.
Dzelebdzic awarded his the MVP honor to his entire team, citing the "important role of teamwork" and how it was most responsible for the squad's championship run.
The Vanguard 16U team also fought its way into a tournament championship game where it faced San Diego Shores.
Vanguards' only loss prior to the final came at the hands of SD Shores earlier in the tournament, but the local team was able to play a series of "back-door" games to bring it back into the hunt for the Championship.
In a close final, Vanguard jumped out to an early two-goal lead and was up by one goal going into the fourth quarter. There, its offense couldn't produce and SD Shores rallied for a 6-4 victory.
Matt Robert, Quinten Osborne, Ethan Wojciechowski and goalie Patrick Saunders, who anchored the Vanguard defense, had stellar play for Vanguard.
The 16U blue team was coached by Sasa Branisavljevic also coached the 16U Blue team and Chris Kaps served as assistant coach.
Boys' 12U, 14U Silver
The Vanguard 12U and 14U Silver teams also posted impressive results throughout the course of the tournament.
No other club in the nation had two teams (same age) in the Championship Platinum Division. The 12U team was coached by Ryan Camps and the 14U team by Nemanja Jokanovic, both assistant coaches at Huntington Beach High.
Vanguard Aquatics has programs designed for all ages and will continue to run summer camps through August. For information, visit http://www.hbvanguard.com.
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