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Oakdale Water Polo Girls Advance To Junior Olympics
It has been a short period of time since water polo has come onto the horizon in Oakdale, yet if the Oakdale High boys and girls varsity programs’ berth into the Sac-Joaquin Section tournament this past season didn’t open the community’s eyes, the group’s newest accomplishment surely will.
Oakdale’s 14-u and 16-u squads have both earned a ticket into the 2009 S&R Sport National Junior Olympics tournament in Stanford, giving the teams an opportunity to compete against the best polo clubs in and around the nation.
“I felt that we would go to J.O.’s,” Oakdale standout Morgan Kinyon said. “I really felt we would qualify. Going into the qualifying tournament we all felt pretty confident that we would go on.”
Oakdale has had a unique impact on the sport in its brief tenure competing, forcing itself on the scene with the much larger Division I programs of the section with a gritty determination that has elevated the program into uncharted waters.
“Our two third place finishes in the central California zone is truly amazing,” Oakdale head coach Alan Stender said. “I had hoped to just qualify with a sixth or seventh place finish, but we beat huge club teams out of Modesto-Stanislaus, American River, Sacramento and Bakersfield, which draw from up to six different high schools for their all-star teams.
“The girls played extremely well and our defense was rock solid.”
The girls squad made their mark earlier this season when they made it to the Section tournament during the high school competition, now the team has an opportunity to make an even bolder statement with a strong showing in the Junior Olympics.
A handful of the Lady Mustangs have been able to advance to the Junior Olympic tournament on teams from the Central Valley area, yet this is the first team rooted in Oakdale to attempt to qualify for the national event.
Joining the dozens of other programs to compete for a shot at the tournament title at Stanford simply was not enough as both the 16-u and 14-u squads enter the tournament action with a third place ranking in their particular zone.
“It was really cool that we grabbed a third seed,” Kinyon said. “We played good against good teams so that was pretty cool.”
The tournament will have teams from all over the western region, from California up to Oregon, leaving Oakdale with a steep hill to climb. The squad will certainly be up to the challenge, yet know going in there will be plenty of teams there giving it their all as well.
“We know they’re going to be good teams,” Kinyon said. “But I am not really sure because this is most of our first time going to J.O.’s, so we don’t know how it will be run or anything like that.
“So we’ll just be practicing Mondays through Thursdays preparing for the tournament.”
Oakdale will find themselves matched up against the best squads advancing from Chicago, Santa Barbara, San Diego, Houston, Central Florida and a host of other teams poised on making themselves Junior Olympic champions. Tournament host USA Water Polo will be coordinating the event from several different pool locations in the Stanford bay area beginning July 30 through Aug. 2.