DEL MAR — Two young water polo teams brought home Junior Olympic gold in July.
The Del Mar Water Polo Club’s 12-&-under Boys Blue and 14-&-under Boys Blue teams earned the title of National Champions as both teams brought home gold medals from USA Water Polo’s annual Junior Olympics tournament, held July 16 to July 19 in San Jose.
These are the second and third Platinum Division National Championship titles earned by Del Mar Water Polo Club, the first of which was achieved at last year’s 2021 Junior Olympics by the 12&-under Boys A team. Del Mar’s 12-&-under Boys Blue Team made it through the gauntlet of the Junior Olympics unscathed, winning all seven of their tournament games and defeating Patriot Aquatics team in the championship match.
Led by Head Coaches Cyrus Kahangi and Coach Marko Vukojevic, the team saw many victories throughout the 2021-2022 season, including going undefeated in the elite Futures Water Polo League and winning the Futures Superfinals tournament championship. During the
championship match at the USA Water Polo Junior Olympics, the Del Mar boys were down 2-4
at the end of the first quarter, but stuck to their game plan and managed to tie up the game by
halftime. The team came out strong in the third quarter, took the lead, and never looked back,
ultimately claiming a decisive 14-9 victory. MVP Grayson Taylor described his team’s grit and
determination in a post-game interview: “It was really tough in the beginning. We just had to
figure them out, get them into foul trouble, and play like the brothers we are.”
Head Coach Kahangi followed Taylor’s front line perspective with a holistic description of the water polo community and the value of the contributions made by each individual. “Just
wonderful to see everyone’s hard work at the very end of their age group cycle,” said Kahangi,
“Our boys, everyone else’s boys. Hats off to Patriot.”
The Del Mar 14-&-under Boys Blue team played eight games in total during the National Junior Olympics, spread across four days. The boys had faced off against Newport Beach Water Polo Club throughout the year to compete in regional tournaments, winning three out of four final match-ups, often by a single goal. After Del Mar lost to Newport on day three of the Junior
Olympics in a shootout, the result of a tie game, the team again faced Newport
Beach Water Polo Club in the championship final. In order to earn the ability to play in the final,
Del Mar had to play-in to the semi-final by defeating the powerhouse Vanguard Aquatics. The
semi-final match saw another victory for Del Mar against Diablo Alliance, whose 14-&-under
team was undefeated prior to day four of the Junior Olympics.
Hundreds of water polo teams from across the country battled for the championship in their specific age groups, having earned the right to compete through regional qualifying tournaments. USA Water Polo’s Junior Olympics tournament is held every year in July and marks the culmination of a year’s worth of hard work for competitive teams in the youth water polo community. For many athletes and teams, this includes year-round training nearly every day of the week and additional countless hours spent on mental and physical preparation outside of the pool.