|L-R: Matt Ryan, Michael Rojas, Stu Sheldon, Graham Olson, Kevin Hughes (back), Neal Laxpati (front), Perry Brandes, Dave Courter (back), Erin Cunefare (front, w/ trophy), Robert Brandes, Leo Panagiotakopoulos.|
Dynamo Water Polo Club carried home their third-straight South Atlantic Coast Water Polo League championship at the Greensboro Aquatic Center in Greensboro, NC. Their 5-0 record this weekend runs Dynamo WPC to 28-0 in SACWPL matches. They are the only champion in the three year history of the league.
“Defense wins championships” explained Dynamo WPC player/coach Leo Panagiotakopoulos. “Especially in the championship against the Charlotte Sharks, we emphasized strong defense above all else. Our focus generated blocks, turnovers and counterattack opportunities that we converted. Real team water polo.”
For the third year in a row, Dynamo took a very different line-up to Greensboro. The 2015 roster included an age spread of 38 years from oldest to youngest player. Both seventeen, Perry Brandes (Alpharetta H.S. 2016) and Michael Rojas (Collins Hill H.S. 2016) provided dynamic energy, especially on defense and in transition. Just back from her freshman varsity campaign at Cal Lutheran University, Erin Cunefare (Lakeside H.S. 2014) demonstrated maturity, skill and strength in all four phases of the game including a perfect 5M penalty goal. “Our sustained results over the past three years, in this league and other tournaments, is a credit to Coach Leo,” explained one DWPC player. “We’ve had good players for over twenty years but Coach Leo has us all playing clear individual roles within a well-understood system.”
Dynamo easily dispatched Hampton Roads (VA) in its first match. Triangle (NC) was next on the schedule. After a close first half, the speed and fitness of Dynamo broke through and Triangle fell away. The last Saturday match put Dynamo against the Washington Wetskins. This match was closer than planned but Dynamo made defensive adjustments in the third quarter and pulled away early in the fourth.
Championship Sunday started with an 8AM Dynamo match against Greensboro (NC). After a comfortable win, Dynamo grabbed some rest before they faced the Charlotte Sharks for the championship, at 11:30AM. Dynamo grumbled about an 8AM game while the Sharks didn’t play until the championships, but perhaps the “wake up” game was a blessing in disguise. Coach Leo had Dynamo prepped for Charlotte with a hybrid “triple match-up” defense and topped off with PowerBars for energy. Dynamo led by six goals at the half, but Charlotte made a big push early in the third and closed the gap to three. If not for two beautiful, deep “on the hand” outlet passes from Dynamo goalie Neal Laxpati that led to quick counterattack goals, the Dynamo lead would’ve been down to a single goal by the end of the third. Dynamo fitness and patience on offense held the Sharks at bay and delivered a third SACWPL championship trophy for the team from Atlanta.