By STEVE GALLUZZO | Sports Editor
Only days after Westside Aquatic Club’s boys water polo teams posted impressive results at the USA Junior Olympics, it was the girls’ turn to shine last week at the national competition in Orange County.
Recent Palisades High graduate Jackie Au enjoyed one last hurrah in the 18U Classic Division, leading Westside to ninth place in the gold bracket. She scored in all but one of her squad’s eight games, including two goals in a 7-6 victory over PV Water Polo Club in Sunday’s finale. Au helped the Dolphins reach the City finals three times in her four years at Palisades and will play for Whittier College in the fall.
“It’s sad because I’ve been with these girls since I was a sophomore and we’re really close,” Au said. “I’m closer with these girls than the ones at Pali. The level of competition in club is so much higher and these girls are all just as competitive as I am.”
Au was the Dolphins’ leading scorer at Pali High, but for Westside she is but one of several starters good enough to play at the next level.
“We’re all really equal and we can go up and down the pool without getting tired,” Au said. We spend two to three hours in the pool everyday and that hard work has paid off. I’m a lot stronger and I’ve learned so much since I started in this sport.”
Au’s life is about to change for good. She reports to Whittier on Sept. 1 and classes start Sept. 6 and she is ready for the next challenge.
“My college coach came to watch me yesterday,” she said. “I hope he liked what he saw.”
Joining Au on the Westside team were two other Pali High girls who will be back to lead the Dolphins in the winter, 15-year-olds Leighanne Estabrook and Sydney Brouwer.
Rounding out the team, coached by Connor Virjee, were Julie Hartman of Marlborough School and eight players from Santa Monica High: twins Audrey and Alyssa Hattori, goalie Amalie Luneng Solli, Sara Amirdelfan, Emily Castro, Isabella De Longeville, Shanna Stevenson and McKenna Davis.
Westside finished 5-3 and closed the tournament by avenging an earlier 6-5 defeat to PV Water Polo.
In the 14U Classic Division, Westside took 13th place in the silver bracket after topping Royal in its final game Sunday, played next to the 18U game at Portola High in Irvine.
Coached by Justin Vink, the 14U squad was made up of players from John Adams and Paul Revere middle schools: Story Waxman, Marieka Possman, Ava Jennings, Katelyn Jennings, Adelaide Saab, Ashley Greger, Madison Greger, Ava Cherry, Bianca Cherry, Julia Sansing, Maxine Eschger, Lia Perez and Caitlin Durkin.
Westside’s 10U mixed team bounced back from two early losses to take eighth in the gold bracket of the Championship Division, reeling off wins against Bakersfield, Del Mar, Skimmers and Stanford B.
Coached by Olivia Allen, the co-ed squad included Matteo Tropea, Evan Vourakis, Zachary Wiezorek, Oliver Lichstein, Philip Senciac, Adrian Senciac, Caleb Yost, Dylan Rosenzweig, Joseph Curtis, Ethan Fitzgerald and goalie Kendall Donahue.
Program Director Matt Flanders, who assisted all the teams over the course of the two sessions, was thrilled with Westside’s performance at the biggest water polo competition in the world, featuring thousands of players from across the country.
“We sent six teams and and finished higher than last year in each division,” Flanders said. “The kids worked hard and many thanks to the great and supportive parents!”
In Session One, which was also held at various venues throughout Orange County, saw the local club’s 16U boys take first place in the bronze bracket of the Classic Division, the 14Us take fourth in the nickel bracket of the Invitational Division and the 12Us place fourth in the silver bracket of the Classic Division.