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SOAK Boys Ready For Junior Olympics

POSTED July 13, 2011 12:06 a.m.
It’s official.
Despite the respite a pool offers this summer, water polo is the hottest sport in Oakdale.
The Oakdale Water Polo Club and SOAK (Sonora/Oakdale) teams have exploded to record numbers this summer, and saw an unexpected 18-deep roster of 12-and-under coed players for their host SOAK Tournament last weekend.
In all, six SOAK teams joined the fray of 59 teams and 81 games across four venues on Saturday and Sunday last week. For three of those teams, it was one more chance to sharpen some skills just a few weeks before entry in the 2011 Junior Olympics in Orange County.
Oakdale’s 18-and-under boys are seeded 8th out of 16 teams, and likely represent SOAK’s best shot at junior Olympic victories when the tournament kicks off at around 26 pools in the OC area from July 30 to August 2.
Oakdale’s leading performers on that team are center attacker Neal Cadra, outside attacker Braden Lee and center defender Jeremy Neathery. All played huge roles during Oakdale’s run to an undefeated Valley Foothill League season and playoff run in 2010.
“Those three guys have been wonderful, and they are playing as good or better than they did last Fall,” Oakdale High and club coach Alan Stender said. “The more games we get the more experience we get, and we are just gaining valuable experience to play at a higher level.”
Goalkeeper Michael Tripp was also a big part of Oakdale’s success last year, and is working to regain some of his conditioning with the club team after a full spring with Oakdale’s section champion golf team.
Ben Kirby, Taylor Leach, Jared Kahler, Dahlton Trotter and Frank Roffeir are the leading Mustangs on Oakdale’s 16-and-under boys team. Trotter and Kahler are young enough to compete with the 14-and-under squad, but have joined forces with the older boys for Junior Olympic qualification.
“They are at a different learning level,” coach Stender said. “While the older kids know the game and work on their conditioning and fine tuning, the younger kids are still learning the nuances of the sport, how to fix their mistakes.”
Kahler scored a winning goal in the third game of the 14-and-under team’s SOAK tournament in Ripon on Sunday. The squad went 2-1 after a 17-4 victory over Modesto Stanislaus to start the tournament. They lost hold of an early lead on American River in an 11-6 defeat, but fired back with a 6-7 win over Sacramento.
“We had a good strong team of boys with the speed and determination to win the games,” 14-and-under SOAK coach Jessica Carwin said. “That is what helped us to win this weekend.”
Stender said this is the first year the program has hosted 14-and-under and 12-and-under squads. The young participants enables athletes to get a valuable introduction to water polo before their high school career begins. Having 18 12-and-under athletes willing to learn the sport is just what the high school programs needs to compete with top-tier Sacramento area programs in the water polo postseason.
“I have been dreaming about having 12-and-under kids in our program,” Stender said. “Normally kids don’t get started until around their sophomore year of high school, and by then it is a little late in the game to learn the sport.
“We look at the summer season as a good opportunity to gain experience. We don’t have any great expectations, other than to qualify for Junior Olympics and play the best we can.”
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