Junior Olympics 2017 – Moose
Featuring 18&U Girls and 16&U Girls
By Paul Splitt
Our 2017 Junior Olympic journey was one of the most amazing experiences that we have ever had in the 5 years we have been sending teams to compete in this tournament. From the sending of two teams, to the highest finish ever from any Ohio team, to earning medals – this was a very special week for these ladies.
Day 1 – Sunday July 23rd
The majority of the team flew out from their various homes (Cincinnati, Columbus, Napoleon, Chicago, St. Louis, and Erie) and made their way to Southern California’s gorgeous Orange County. Because the tournament is the biggest tournament of the year, there is a training set up prior to the start to help with developing team chemistry and preparing for California water polo. It is a big jump in physical play from Midwest to Cali ball, and it takes a lot of adjusting to get ready to perform at our best. Through Coach Splitt’s connections in Cali, we were able to set up several different scrimmages / trainings with local club teams.
Day 1 training with Rose Bowl. We have had a history of opening up with Rose Bowl nearly every year of Junior Olympics, and since we did not open up with them this year, it was only fitting to set up a scrimmage date with them. Outside of some crazy travel issues with a few families, the day was smooth and the training was awesome! This Rose Bowl team ended up going on to win Junior Olympics for the 16&U division! Pretty great start of the week to match up with the best in the nation!
After the scrimmages, the team hit up the obligatory In & Out Burger, and headed back to the hotel for some rest.
Day 2 – Monday July 24th
The rest of the team had traveled in either Sunday night or Monday morning, so we had a full team ready for our second day of scrimmages. The training on day 2 was a bit of drive, but it was well worth it, as we headed to Coronado in San Diego. Our newly hired assistant coach – Kayle Tutro – played for Coronado in HIgh School, and it was a very special reunion for her to return to where she learned how to play, and bring a team she was coaching there. Kaylee even had a personalized brick at the complex that she had never seen before, and we had a big celebration upon finding it. We had 2 courses set up at Coronado, with the 18s in one and the 16s in the other.
After the games, the team hit up a local food place and continued to bond while celebrating 2 birthdays of the girls on the team. Upon finishing there, the coaches car took a scenic drive around the island while coach Tutro showed us around and we hit up the best ice cream on the island too. This was truly an amazing day all around and as we left Coronado, we immediately began looking into when we could make a return!
Day 3 – Tuesday July 25th
This was our final day of training before JO’s and we had a special bonus before training with Riverside, and it was a college tour of Cal Baptist University. One of the Moose girls (Catie Kaliszewski) signed to play at CBU, and the head coach of Riverside is a CBU coach, so we set up a tour with a group of girls and checked out the campus. It was a special opportunity to see Catie at her future home just before her last JO’s with us (it was her 3rd JO’s with Moose).
After the college tour we headed to Riverside City College and scrimmaged with Riverside’s 16 & 18 team. Another great set of games with some excellent teams and excellent coaches. We did a team dinner near by and headed back to the hotel.
Day 4 – Wednesday July 26th
Rest day. Most of the girls headed to the beach and the rest stayed in. We had our coach’s meeting that evening and we had our final preparations for the tournament.
The team has a very special tradition before the tournament with our team bonding activity, and this year was no different. You could feel that evening that the teams were preparing to do something never done by any Ohio teams in the past.
Day 5 – Thursday July 27th
JUNIOR OLYMPICS BEGINS! It is very hard to communicate just how big of a gap there is between the teams in our first game. Day 1 game 1 for a Midwest team is just…well, its fun to be in the water with teams of this type of caliber when they are playing all out for 4 quarters. The 16s opened up with Diablo A, and they made it to the national championship game against Rose Bowl (from Sunday…yeah, we played the top 2 teams in the nation that week!). The 18s opened up with the team that would go on to win the Classic division of JO’s.
For teams likes us, JO’s really starts in game 2. For the 16s, this meant Rose Bowl B, and the 18s with Silicon Valley. We were tight in both games, with the 18s losing on a buzzer beater, and the 16s being pulled away from in the 2nd half.
This set the teams up for the rest of the tournament. 16’s competing in the “GOLD” Division – 25 through 48 in the nation, and the 18s in the “BRONZE” Division – 73 through 96 in the nation.
Day 6 – Friday July 28th
This was a memorable day to say the least! With each team knowing their division, and knowing what their path held, we got after it.
The 16’s were placed in a group of 24, but because they went 0-2 on day 1, they were placed in the bottom 12. The road to the top 12 was a very difficult, but winnable road. The 16s opened the day with a local zone team in Lyons, out of Chicago, and it was a 5-5 tie after 4 quarters and went into a shootout. It was tied after 4 shooters, and on #5 Moose scores, and our goalie Abigail Hausfeld makes a game winning block. 1-0 after 1 game.
Game 2 – it was just as intense of a game, and after 4 quarters it was a 5-3 win over Viper Pigeon out of Houston, TX. 2-0 so far.
This 2nd win of the day put us in a spot to get a “play-in” game to make our way to the top 12 of the Gold division.
NO TEAM from Ohio has ever been in the top 12 of the Gold Division. Ever.
Moose played Tualatin Hills out of Oregon. Winner makes top 12 of Gold, loser is bottom 12 of Gold. Moose had been in this game 2 times in the past, but lost both times. This time was a little different. After 4 quarters, the score was once again 5-3 with Moose winning.
3-0 on the day. 12 quarters of play. 11 goals given up. Top 12 of gold. 25th-36th nationally. And a guaranteed best finish ever from any Ohio team. It was amazing! The day was not done, as the 18s still had to get after it – and get after it they did!
The 18s opened up with play in the Bronze division, and an opportunity to finish anywhere between 1-24in the division. We opened up with Longhorns out of Texas, and after 2 quarters we were subbing freely and in control of the game. It was a very lopsided game, as the 18s played just as suffocating of D as the 16s did. Game 1 in the books 1-0 on the day.
Game 2 with Rain City out of Seattle came, and we took control of this game early. By the 2nd quarter Rain City was unable to get the ball past mid-tank and we controlled every phase of the game. It was not a close game either. Game 2 in the books, and 2-0 on the day.
5-0 on the day for Moose! Pretty awesome day!
Day 7 – Saturday July 29th
With the 16s reaching heights never before seen, the competition also took a step up. We opened with Diablo B (their A team made the National Championship game), and we kept it close early on, but by the 2nd quarter Diablo began to pull away. It was an excellent effort, but you could also see that we were starting to get a bit gassed, and the more the game went on, the less we could hang with them. 0-1 on the day, and this put us in the 9th-12th place semi-final. We would play Kearns out of Utah in the 2nd game of the day. The girls gave it everything we had, but we came up a little short. 0-2 on the day. Team morale still very high, and they were loving it.
The 18s had 1 game on Saturday if they won, and 2 if we lost the 1st game. We opened with Herriman out of Utah, and with the 16s loss earlier in the day the 18s were able to avenge their loss to a Utah team, and they muscled out a strong win. This win put the girls in Bronze division semi-finals on Sunday.
Day 8 – Sunday July 30th
The final day of JO’s! A week long journey that was coming to an end, and we were so excited to see how our journey would end.
The day started with the 18s playing in the semi-final against Royal 559 out of Northern Cal. After giving up 5 goals in the first quarter, we kept the game super tight and brought it within 3 goals late, but Royal pulled out the win as they advanced to the gold medal game of the bronze division. Royal would go on to win the Bronze division over SOCAL C (SOCAL A would go on to take 2nd overall at JO’s).
This put the 18s in the Bronze medal game for the Bronze division. 1 more game. 1 more opportunity to play at Cali team (Valley WP out of NorCal). Valley jumped out to the quick lead, and would control the game through 3 quarters. After 3, it was a 5-4 score favoring Valley. Moose stuck with their game plan, and once again fought their way through the last quarter and scored 4 unanswered goals in the 4th and pulled off an 8-5 win over a Cali team to earn Bronze!
No Ohio team has ever medaled at JO’s before. The closest was taking 4th in the Bronze division in 2013. Absolutely amazing to navigate the way to a divisional finals and to beat a Cali team to take 3rd was very special.
The 16s were running on empty after their 3 win day 2, and played a very strong Praetorian team out of Oregon. While we did not come out on top of that game, the ladies felt they had already “won JO’s” by making it into the top 12 of Gold. They also finished the highest of any Midwest 16s team this year too.
After the games the team headed to the main pool and watched the national championship games. We were exhausted. We were stoked. We just loved it!
2 teams. 2 firsts. 2 unbelievable journeys, 1 incredible week. This was truly the best week of water polo ever experienced by any team from Ohio. The athletes were amazing. The parents were amazing. The whole experience was amazing. Not sure how we top a JO’s like this, but that’s why we train as hard as we do. We said the same thing last year when we had the best finish from Ohio and beat a Cali team for the first time. These girls just love a good challenge and are always up to to the task! I am very thankful to coach these incredible young ladies, and super stoked to see where they go going forward. GO MOOSE!