Del Mar Water Polo Club 14 and under boys team wins National Champions Cup

Del Mar Water Polo Club 14-&-under boys with their gold medals
Del Mar Water Polo Club 14-&-under boys with their gold medals following the Championship match. Front Row: Alexandre Bonhomme, Oren Penning, Maximus Arnold, Luke Anderson, Hudson Tweed, Braylen Axline, Merrick Au, Eamon Bruhn, Diego Dantas; Back Row: Jett Taylor, Colton Bell, Colin McPhail, Darko Dresevic, Coach Jakov Belamaric, Grant Fukunaga

(John Arnold)

The Del Mar Water Polo Club’s 14 and under boys are the champions of the 2021 USA Water Polo Kap7 Champions Cup held Nov. 5 - 7 in Bloomington, Indiana.

The team — Luke Anderson, Braylen Axline, Eamon Bruhn, Diego Dantas, Jett Taylor, Maximus Arnold, Merrick Au, Colton Bell, Alexandre Bonhomme, Darko Dresevic, Grant Fukunaga, Colin McPhail, Oren Penning, and Hudson Tweed — led by Coach Jakov Belamaric, captured the gold medal at the annual 14-&-under tournament which took place at Indiana University’s Counsilman-Billingsley Aquatics Center. Twelve boys teams from across the country earned the opportunity through competition in qualifying matches to compete in the Champions Cup, representing the states of California, Connecticut, Texas, Hawaii, and Illinois. Del Mar defeated Greenwich Aquatics 10-6 in the gold medal game, after having maintained a consistent lead throughout the match.

Del Mar entered the championship games on Nov. 7 with a 3-1 record, including a decisive 11-4 victory against Northern California’s Stanford Water Polo Club and a 17-6 win versus Lamorinda Water Polo Club.

In a competitive semifinal match, Del Mar faced Tustin’s SOCAL Water Polo Club. Del Mar ended the first quarter ahead 4-3 with two goals by utility Colton Bell and two goals by center Braylen Axline. SOCAL found their own net once during the second quarter to add to goals by Axline and guard Jett Taylor to bring the halftime score to 7-4.

Del Mar athletes prepare for the championship game
Del Mar athletes prepare for the championship game with a pre-game huddle to raise the energy level before the first whistle.
(John Arnold)

The third and fourth quarter proved exciting for both teams, with two goals by Axline and one goal by attacker Eamon Bruhn, followed by a SOCAL comeback to even the score at 10-10. Del Mar, however, denied any additional SOCAL goals and finished strong in the final minutes with goals by Bruhn and Axline to end the game at 12-10.

In the Nov. 7 gold medal game, Del Mar met up with Greenwich Aquatics for the second time in the tournament. After falling 8-10 to Greenwich on Nov. 6, the Del Mar boys were prepared and ready to face-off against the Connecticut powerhouse after reviewing their performance and adapting their strategy, drawing on Coach Belamaric’s extensive knowledge and experience.

“I am incredibly proud of these guys and how they played in this tournament,” said Coach Belamaric.

“It is very early in the season for us as a team, and we did not have a lot of time to prepare, so it was very exciting to see the level of skill set and maturity this group is showing this early in the year. Losing to Greenwich in the second group stage was a tough experience that we learned a lot from, so we knew we could compete with them. It is not very often that you get a second chance, but this time we did. I am so happy with the way we finished the tournament.”

The championship game was controlled by Del Mar from start to finish, with an impressive performance by goalie Oren Penning and a dominating 4-2 start in the first quarter with goals by Axline, Bell, and attacker Maximus Arnold.

Arnold led the second quarter with a goal, followed by Axline and Taylor, to finish the half at 7-2. Arnold again led the third quarter with a goal, followed by goals from Bell and Taylor to bring the score to 10-3. Del Mar’s 10th goal would prove to be its last in this match, but they held onto their lead with an effective defensive strategy and a final score of 10-6 to secure the championship. Goalie Oren Penning collected a phenomenal 17 saves throughout the final game and was recognized with the Jody Campbell Sportsmanship Award.

The Del Mar 14-&-under boys team will continue to train throughout the next eight months in preparation for the USA Water Polo National Junior Olympics in July, which will be held in Northern California.

The Del Mar Water Polo Club was founded in 2008 by Olympian Brett Ormsby to help water polo players throughout San Diego County acquire the necessary skills to be successful throughout their water polo careers and beyond. The club focuses on fundamentals and skill development, in an environment that encourages teamwork, perseverance, and a commitment to achieving one’s personal best, providing players with the foundation necessary to transition into higher levels of play. Ultimately, the club hopes to instill a love for the game and a healthy appreciation for the hard work it takes to be successful, both as a water polo player and in life.

More information can be found at — Report by Kiesha Bell and Katie Anderson