Not that long ago, Davis Water Polo Club coach Doug Wright wasn’t even sure he’d be able to cobble together an under-10 girls team.
On Tuesday, he watched as all the pieces came together to make DWPC history.
The local under-10 girls team battled through the four-day, six-team National Junior Olympics tournament at Stanford University and emerged with gold medals. It was the first time a DWPC team captured gold at a national age-group event.
“A month ago, I was still wondering if I’d have enough girls,” Wright told The Enterprise. “We were just happy to get a team there.”
Davis has a long history of strong water polo teams; however, its newest members had not yet proven themselves and were seeded last in the round-robin portion of the tournament. The U10 squad improved its seeding and entered the one-and-done portion of the tournament seeded third.
After a lopsided semifinal, the locals squared off against Offshore of Orange County for the championship in front of a raucous crowd at Avery Aquatics Stadium on Tuesday.
Davis broke through early with a goal by Jenna Flynn, thwarting Offshore’s physical defense. Flynn, who finished with a hat trick, and Lindsay Taylor were all over the pool on defense, harassing their opponents and creating turnovers. Malaya Wright added a goal to give Davis 4-2 lead at the end of the first half.
Davis kept up the defensive pressure with Libby Slater, Katelyn Reeves, Skylar Schouten and Emily Chapman playing strong on both sides of the pool.
Offshore threatened to score on numerous occasions late in the game, but managed only one goal to pull within 4-3. Davis goalie Maddie Walker came up with a number of sparkling saves to maintain the lead.
Late in the fourth quarter, an Offshore player was free behind the defense, but Flynn and Taylor were able to sprint back on defense and take the ball away. With less than a minute remaining, Offshore drew a 5-meter penalty, but Walker made an incredible block to retain the ball — and the lead for the win.
“It was high-pitched screaming,” said Wright, recalling the moment after the girls’ victory. “It sinks in differently at different levels. When the under 16s or 18s win a big tournament there are normally tears. For these girls, it was more screaming.”
To reach the title game, the Davis girls battled a number of tough teams. The locals kicked off the tournament Saturday with an 11-9 loss to Santa Barbara but rebounded to beat Vanguard (Huntington Beach) 9-4 later that day. On Sunday, Davis started with a hard-fought victory over Lamorinda, 12-10, and improved its tournament mark to 3-1 with a 6-3 win over Offshore.
Davis squandered a lead — as well as a chance to secure a first-round bye in the next stage — as it fell 4-3 to Laguna Beach. The loss seeded Davis No. 3 and paired it against the No. 6 team, Laguna Beach.
“I had to get them regrouped and convince them that they could beat a team that just beat them,” Wright said. “That’s not easy.”
After a 30-minute break, the locals once again faced Laguna Beach with a spot in the semifinals on the line. Davis came through with an 8-4 victory, earning the No. 3 seed.
In Tuesday’s early morning semifinal game, Davis faced Lamorinda and again came away with a win; this time 7-5. The win put the Davis squad into championship game.
Davis had solid contributions throughout the tournament from Alana Ahuna, Kenzie Walker and Grace Juliussen.