Thursday, August 10, 2017

Dynamo WPC Wraps Up Historic Trip to USAWP Junior Olympic National Championship

Twelve young ladies from Dynamo Water Polo Club made history in late July 2017 when they became the first Georgia-based team ever to compete at the U.S.A. Water Polo Junior Olympic national championships.  The tournament, known as "JOs," is the pinnacle of youth water polo competition in the United States.  The 2017 JOs were held in 20+ pools spread across Orange County, California.  The event brings approximately 10,000 athletes - as many as a Summer Olympic Games - together for a week of Boys and Girls competitions.  The Dynamo WPC squad of girls ages fifteen and sixteen ("16U"), qualified for the event with their 2-1 record and second place finish at the USAWP Southeast Zone Qualifying tournament, held June 17-18 in Orlando, FL.

"Our long term goal when we started the Dynamo Water Polo Club youth program was to send teams to JOs," explained head coach Monica Szalma.  "I am extremely proud of these young ladies for supporting each other and working hard to reach this goal in just our second season. The biggest reward for us coaches is to watch these athletes set an example for the rest of the zone; that there are strong players outside of Florida willing to put in the hard work and compete at Junior Olympics. Finally, we are excited for the exposure that our athletes gained with various collegiate programs around the country."

"Playing at JOs is so much fun and such a great team experience to play against other teams from across the country at such a high level of competition" reports Jaime Matherson, the only Dynamo player with prior JO
experience. Jaime and her family moved to Atlanta last summer from northern California, where she played for the highly-regarded 680 Drivers Water Polo club. Jaime, a rising 10th grade student at North Atlanta High School, continued: "Playing on a water polo team from Georgia at JOs and to be on the first female team ever to qualify from Georgia has been a goal of mine since we move here from California."

Dynamo's first game was a reunion for Jamie as the team squared off against none other than the 680 Drivers (Danville, CA).  680, the #2 overall seed in the tournament, has placed several girls on the USAWP national teams and has players sign NCAA Division I scholarships every year.  Despite a 19-0 loss to 680, one Dynamo player called it the best water polo match she'd ever played.  Dynamo was more competitive in the remaining matches and maintained a positive outlook the entire trip as they compiled a 2-5 record overall.  Dynamo finished 46th among the almost 100 total 16U Girls teams at the event.

One highlight among many on the trip was a ten-minute USAWP interview of the team after the team upset #22 seed Chelsea Pier (CT) 8-7.  The thrilling match was capped off with a critical penalty shot block by DWPC goalie Caitlyn Hurst with ten seconds left to preserve the win.  The Dynamo girls can't wait for the edited video to run on the USAWP YouTube channel.

"Water polo has been an organized Georgia high school club sport for over a decade," explained DWPC Youth assistant coach Stuart Sheldon, "but only in 2017 did we get enough 'travel' players to attempt to qualify for USAWP JOs." 2016 saw twenty-four players; the count jumped to almost 60 in 2017. The roster included players from eight different high school teams and a number of first-time players. Athletes ages 12-18 practiced three times a week from February through July.

The USAWP Junior Olympic tournament features the top teams from each of the eleven Zones across the country. It is the place for college coaches to scout players and, outside of the Olympic Development Program tournament, is the best place for USAWP national team coaches to see players in action. The Southeast Zone includes Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee, Alabama and Mississippi.

Player - High School (Unless noted, schools are in the greater Atlanta area)

Savanah Buch - Gainesville (Gainesville FL)
Ava Callis - Collins Hill
Molly Haynes - Grady
Caytlin Hurst - Winter Park (Winter Park, FL)
Grace Lacoursiere - American Heritage (Delray, FL)
Jaime Matherson - North Atlanta
Ella Murphy - Northwest Guilford (Greensboro, NC)
Cameron Ragan - Wheeler
Grace Sherman - Veritas Classical Schools
Maddie Ta - Riverwood
Allison Vermaak - Campbell
Megan van Wijk - Home Schooled
Clare Wheeler - Atlanta Girls School

Monica Szalma - Head Coach
Stuart Sheldon - Assistant Coach

Match scores (opponents seed listed first; DWPC was 47th seed):
#2 680 Red A (CA) 19 - DWPC 0
#23 Kearns (UT) 10 - DWPC 5
#39 Spartan (MI) 11 - DWPC 10
#42 Puget Sound (WA) 15 - DWPC 2
#22 Chelsea Pier (CT) 7 - DWPC 8
#45 Napa Premiere (CA) 3 - DWPC 7
#41 Lyons (IL) 7 - DWPC 2

Special thanks to our sponsors: 
Turbo, Kap7PowerBar & Sports DeKalb; to the staff and volunteers at USAWP who put on a great event; and to the team parents who took care of so many details throughout the trip.

Dynamo, DynaMITE! See everyone again in 2018.


Dynamo Water Polo Club celebrates after an 8-7 win over higher-seeded
Chelsea Pier WPC (CT) at the 2017 USAWP Junior Olympic national championship
tournament in Orange County, CA.

Dynamo Water Polo Club played seven matches in three different pools over
four days...and logged over 500 miles in "Peaches," their rental
van...during the 2017 USAWP Junior Olympic national championship tournament
in Orange County, CA.