By Chelsea Robert
Ottawa Capital Wave’s 16U girls finished just a splash short of a national championship, falling to the perennial water polo powerhouse, Quebec’s Dollard Black 6-3 in the National Championship League finals on May 26.
Ottawa Capital Wave’s 16U and 19U girls teams qualified for nationals by finishing in the top two of the National Championship League eastern conference and won the right to take on the nation’s best at the championships held in Montreal.
Celso Rojas, Capital Wave 16U and 19U girls head coach, said that cracking the national championships alone was the goal for both teams.
“The girls had achieved this, and at the first meeting we said it, the girls should be proud to already be in the top four at national championships, so now it was to keep learning and have fun at nationals.” Rojas said.
Capital Wave was only established six years ago, and Rojas described the club as being still in its infancy. “Some of these girls have only played four or five years and it’s hard when the other girls in this age group have been playing water polo for eight years,” he said.
In the final minutes of the 16U gold medal game, Rojas called a timeout to calm the girls down and remind them “to just have fun.”
“He would really try to motivate us and keep our heads up because depending on what quarter it is, you can really come back from a couple points difference,” Capital Wave’s 16U goalie, Abigail Gasparotto said.
Gasparotto, 15, played with both the 16U and 19U teams at nationals. She described the final as an “amazing” experience considering some of her teammates have only been playing water polo for a couple years. It is the first silver medal for Capital Wave in the 16U girls age group. Gasparotto also won an award for being the tournament’s top goalie.
“Winning had never been the particular goal, instead it was just doing your best, having fun, playing as hard as you could and putting everything out there on the water,” she said.
“It was the most exciting thing, being in the gold medal game at nationals with such an inexperienced team.” Gasparotto added, “It makes me more determined than ever to get a gold medal next year.”
Gasparotto said she will be moving up to 19U next year, but is “thankful” to have played with such a great group at 16U and that they were able to grow together “emotionally and physically leading up to nationals.”
The 19U girls team also swam their hearts out placing fifth after being defeated in the bronze qualifier. However, Kaitlyn Palmer, 17 is determined to swim at nationals next year. Palmer has been playing water polo for eight years and for Capital Wave since it was formed.
“It was a really good feeling, the past two years we had come really close to qualifying but it hadn’t happened.” Palmer added, “even though we didn’t do as well as we hoped it’s just going to push us a lot harder to try and go again next year and do better.”
“I think we definitely just never gave up, we played hard until the end of each game no matter what the score was and we stayed positive… that’s something we’ve always needed to work on and I think that’s really important.”
Rojas will be coaching Team Ontario this summer, which includes Palmer, Gasparotto and seven other teammates, along with six girls from the Greater Toronto Area. The team will travel to Spain to play in July.
“We get to play a bunch of European teams and see different skills and styles of every aspect of the sport, so we’re really excited to go train with them and play in Spain,” Gasparotto said.