Local players of all ages set for summer international water polo

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The Capital Wave Water Polo Club hosted the 2017 14U Eastern Canadian Championships from May 12-14. Photo: Dan Plouffe

By Dan Plouffe

From athletes in their early teens up to senior national team kings and queens, local water polo players distinguished themselves at many levels in the past month.

“In all the categories, we are performing, so that’s a good year,” says Capital Wave club head coach Celso Rojas, smiling on the pool deck in Gatineau where some of his youngest athletes took a first step on the path towards the top levels at the 14-and-under Eastern Canadian Championships.

The May 12-14 event effectively wrapped up the season for his club, though many players have exciting summers ahead.

That includes seven Wave girls and two Ottawa Titans boys who have been selected to the Team Ontario youth summer program.

Diego Gonzalez will travel to Lima, Peru for the June 29-July 9 17U Pan American Championships alongside Titans teammate Bogdan Djerkovic, who has also been chosen to compete for Canada at the Aug. 5-13 Junior World Championships in Serbia with fellow Titan Aleksa Gardijan.

The Wave’s Valeria Rojas will also head to Lima to play for the Canadian 17U women her father Celso’s hometown. Celso will serve as assistant coach for the 17U men’s Canadian team at the same time.

Also on the 17U women’s team will be past Wave player Floranne Carroll, who led the 16U girls’ National Championship League in scoring with 74 goals in 18 games. Carroll helped her new Montreal CAMO club to a Canadian silver medal in the 16U division and then jumped back in the pool a couple hours later to help CAMO win a 19U crown on May 27.

Up another age group comes news of the Wave’s Sean Legg signing to play NCAA water polo for the Bearcats at McKendree University, just east of St. Louis.

And the Wave’s Jessica Gaudreault made the biggest splash of all at the top international level.

The 22-year-old Team Canada player earned the most valuable goalkeeper award for both the World League intercontinental round (in May, in California) and the June 6-11 super final in Shanghai, as Canada matched its all-time best finish at the event from 2009.

Gaudreault is now preparing the July 14-30 FINA World Championships in Hungary, as are senior men’s national team athletes Dusan Aleksic and David Lapins of Gatineau, who appeared for the Titans during their youth careers.

Before that though, Gaudreault was also on the pool deck for the Wave-hosted 14U Easterns to hand out medals to the winners.

“The kids really liked that,” highlights Rojas, noting many of the young players got to know her at the annual Celso’s Lake Camp that he runs outside Wakefield. “We’re so happy that she’s happy to come and still help and be there for the club.”

Having successful athletes from the top to the bottom is a major point of pride for Rojas, who focuses on developing all players throughout the year, not just those who are the most talented.

“That pays off at the end,” he underlines. “Some kids who at the beginning were probably not as strong, with all the opportunities they have throughout the season, in a year or two or three, they start showing more potential.”

Amongst the development opportunities were the four major events the Wave put on: their club’s youth festival, the 16U NCL regular season home weekend and eastern conference championships, plus the 14U Easterns to cap it off – an ambitious undertaking that serves as a testament to the volunteers and parents “who really care,” Rojas indicates.

While the success comes at different levels, all are linked by their dedication, he adds.

“One of our philosophies is that our older kids are always involved with the younger kids,” Rojas explains. “It’s the give and receive. When they were little, they had people mentoring them, so now they get to give back.”

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