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SOAK-ed In Qualifications: Teams Moving On To Nationals
7-4 OAK Polo
The talented Under-14 SOAK Water Polo team took some time to grin at the camera after claiming second place in a recent Junior Olympics qualifying tournament. - photo by Photo Contributed

If the Junior Olympics are the kid-sister to the Olympic Games, then the Oakdale water polo girls are coming over for a sleepover.

All three of the Oakdale and Sonora based SOAK girls water polo teams attended Junior Olympic qualifying tournaments from June 22 to June 24 and for the first time in program history, all three emerged with tickets to the National Junior Olympics in August. Since an Oakdale-based boys team also qualified to the Junior Olympics, Oakdale will send a barrage of players to the August event hosted by Stanford University and surrounding facilities.

“This is something that we worked hard to do after growing numbers in our clubs to finally get three levels of the girls to such a big tournament,” SOAK and Oakdale High water polo coach Diane Kline said on Friday. “If you count the boys team it’s four teams to qualify and they are all really excited.”

The SOAK 14-year-old team (coached by Julieann Personius of Sonora) had the best weekend of any local squad after a second place finish in a competitive field of nine teams. The team fell 12-8 to Davis, but bounced back to drop Apache and American River B to see a trip to the finals for a rematch with Davis (who won 14-9). Emily Bennett, Emily Stolken and Alida McKeon led the cast of Oakdale players while Sonora’s Josie Personius also proved tough in the pool.

The 16-and-under team hosted a tournament in Oakdale, and beat Modesto Stanislaus to stay in the hunt, but dropped key games in the tournament’s second day to settle for sixth. Sonora’s Ruby Personius played solid offensively to keep SOAK in games.

“Overall, the girls played very good defense and showed improvement with every game, but our competition was able to take advantage of our weaknesses: swimming speed and experience,” SOAK 16s coach Fallon Clipper said. “This team has a lot of girls with less than a year of experience, and many of the teams we played are much more seasoned.

“The team is looking forward to the challenge coming up in August.”

The SOAK 18s bested Davis B 7-5 in the second game of their tourney after goals by Oakdale’s Cassie Lee (four), Katie Vanderberg (two) and Sonora’s Shelby Chung (one). Chung and Sonora’s Kacee Johnson each scored a goal in a 6-2 loss to end the tournament, and Oakdale settled for eighth, still qualifying.

“It was a tough weekend and we would have liked to finish a little higher in the standings, but we were short a few players ( including the SOAK goalie) and we were able to identify a few areas to work on to make us more competitive at Junior Olympics,” Kline said. “The girls are looking forward to the challenge.”

The SOAK Under-18 boys bested a team from Fairfield in Stockton on June 23 to earn a trip to the July 28-31 Junior Olympics. Oakdale is represented by Frank Rossier, Ben Kirby, Braden Lee, Jared Kahler and Adam Lahey.