Del Mar Water Polo Club 14-&-under Boys Blue team wins Junior Olympics National Championship

Del Mar Water Polo Club
Del Mar Water Polo Club 14-&-under boys hold their trophy high following the Championship match. Hanrui Liu, Stefan Vukojevic, Eamon Bruhn, Maximus Bruhn, Luke Anderson, Aden Shin, Jack Davis, Jordan Lilo, Sebastian Guido, Braylen Axline, Jett Taylor, Grayson Taylor, Diego Dantas, Tosh Hawkins, Jude Laifa, Sebastian Nudleman; pictured with Head Coach Miles Wilson.

(Dr. Eric Nudleman)

Del Mar Water Polo Club’s 14-&-under Boys Blue team was named National Champions at the USA Water Polo Junior Olympics held July 15-18 in Orange County, Calif. The team won all seven of their tournament-style games, defeating San Diego Shores Water Polo Club in the National Championship match. Based on available data, this accomplishment represents a first in USA Water Polo Junior Olympic history: two San Diego teams squaring off for the National Championship title. Such an event reflects the growth of the sport in San Diego and the impact on the level of play.

Led by Head Coach Miles Wilson, the team maintained a consistent lead throughout the final game and secured their win with a decisive nine-point differential.

Del Mar Water Polo Club now holds four National Championship titles. While the victory was significant for the club, the Junior Olympics as a whole and the final championship match were perhaps more significant to the role of water polo on both the local and national levels. Participation in the sport within San Diego and within the nation has increased in recent years which contributes to a higher level of play. Basketball superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo perhaps said it best, stating “There’s no failure in sports…it’s not failure, it’s steps to success.”

Del Mar Water Polo Club 14-&-under boys get hyped prior to the Championship match.
Del Mar Water Polo Club 14-&-under boys get hyped prior to the Championship match.
(Dr. Eric Nudleman)

“Winning the Junior Olympics was the result of a year prioritizing development,” said Coach Wilson. “Because many of our boys will return again to this team, it was important that everyone came together as a team to push each other daily, regardless of age, skill level, or experience.”

Wilson further elaborated on the mindset, grit, and determination required to compete at the highest level, “When we got into competition, a tough game was no problem for us because of our resilience which developed in practice. Additionally, developing a winner’s mentality and relentless desire to win helped us prevail in the Junior Olympics. The major developmental strides we took throughout the year were key to being the number one 14-&-under team in the nation (for the second year in a row). Now we look forward to dominating the field once again, further developing our skills while adding in some new pieces.”

During pre-game commentary provided through GameOn Studio, the match began with the announcer stating that [The teams are] “getting fired up -- this is what they’ve been waiting for. The whole year coming down to this moment, the championship game between Del Mar and San Diego Shores.”

In the first minute of game play, Del Mar powerhouse center Grayson Taylor posted up in center cage, received a pass, tried to make a move with inside water but could not create separation, which resulted in a 5-meter penalty shot awarded to Del Mar. Sharpshooter Aden Shin took the penalty and scored, putting Del Mar on the board.

In the second minute of the game, San Diego Shores scored with a low corner skip shot by Roman Kapchinsky during a 6-on-5 power play. This moment marked a change of momentum as Del Mar scored with a skip shot by Jett Taylor, who powered through two defenders. The play was immediately followed with a 1-on-1 block by Del Mar goalie Luke Anderson and a second low corner stop when San Diego Shores had another opportunity off the rebound, attempting a hustle play after Del Mar attacker and MVP Max Bruhn made an extraordinary field block. The first quarter ended with Del Mar ahead 5 to 1.

With a final score of 17-8, Del Mar 14-&-under Boys Blue team jumped into the pool with Wilson, to celebrate their victory.

Attacker Max Bruhn was named Most Valuable Player (MVP) for his phenomenal contributions to the team’s performance. Recognition was awarded to Max for excellence in athleticism and leadership on both offense and defense.

In addition to this second National Championship for Del Mar Water Polo Club’s Boys 14 & Under team, Del Mar Water Polo Club was the only San Diego club to have six other teams medal in their various divisions and age groups.

Here is a breakdown of Del Mar Water Polo Club’s overall performance at the 2023 National Junior Olympics:

Boys 14u Blue - Del Mar A, National Champions for the 2nd year in a row! Gold medal (1st place) finish in Platinum Division

Boys 12u Blue - Del Mar A, Bronze Medal (3rd place) finish in Platinum Division, Session 1

Boys 12u White - Del Mar B, Silver Medal (2nd place) finish in Silver Division, Session 1

Boys 12u Silver - Del Mar C, Silver Medal (2nd place) finish in Gold Division, Session 3

10u White - Del Mar B, Bronze Medal (3rd place) finish in Gold Division, Session 2 10u Silver - Del Mar C, Bronze Medal (3rd place) finish in Bronze Division, Session 2

Girls 16u Blue – Del Mar A, Silver Medal (2nd place) finish in Bronze Division, Session 2

Del Mar Water Polo Club finished with a total of seven medals across the various age groups.

The USA Water Polo Junior Olympics competition takes place annually and has grown to include three sessions. Session one is held in California and consists of boys’ teams from across the country, requiring that teams meet eligibility criteria through regional qualifying tournaments.

Session two, also in California, is similarly challenging to qualify for, and consists of girls’ and co-ed teams. With the recent growth of the sport, Session three was added and takes place in Texas with an open registration for teams that were not able to qualify for sessions one or two, or teams who prefer to play in Texas.

Within each session, there are multiple levels of game play: Platinum division is the highest level, with gold medals awarded to the National Champions. In addition, teams can compete within the Gold, Silver, and Bronze Divisions, with eligibility determined by both qualifying matches and the initial games in the tournament itself.

Del Mar Water Polo Club sees enormous potential in its athletes. The club began training for the 2024 USA Water Polo Junior Olympics on Aug. 14, 2023.

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