This is the ninth of 10 stories about the best Long Beach youth sports teams we’ve seen over the last decade. We’ve taken nominations from the community and will release the top 10 in no particular order. Come back next week to read about other club squads that made this historic list.
The Shore Aquatics 10-under girls’ water polo team made history in 2018 by winning the Junior Olympics national championship for the first time in club history. The scrappy group of dedicated players went undefeated in Palo Alto that summer by playing the Long Beach way with solid defense, strong swimmers and a deadly counter attack.
“We’re not the biggest team, so we relied on our speed and awareness,” coach Brendan Patterson said. “We are defense first, and get teams on the counter attack. It’s a Long Beach tradition. (Junior Olympics) is our Super Bowl. We’d been preparing for the whole year.”
The Shore 10U girls won all nine of their JO games at Stanford University, and defeated Vanguard 5-0 in the final. Katherine O’Dea was named the 10U MVP in large part because of her defensive effort in the championship game against Vanguard’s top scorer.
O’Dea was awarded the traditional bag of water trophy from the event, but said she couldn’t have done it without her teammates and that they were successful because they acted like a team in and out of the pool.
“We don’t yell at each other and tell each other what to do,” O’Dea said. “We’re more like a team and we work hard together. We trust each other.”
O’Dea is the daughter of Wilson High water polo coach Barry O’Dea, and wasn’t the only player on this team with family Shore connections.
“I’ve been at Shore for (seven) years, and I’ve coached a lot of these girls’ older brothers,” Patterson said. “I’ve been able to see them grow, and they’ve got that younger sibling chip on their shoulder. These are some tough young ladies.”
Compared to some of the boys’ teams he’s coached, Patterson said it was a lot easier to wrangle this team of young girls.
“I’m a little bit no-nonsense when it comes to our kids representing our city at these tournaments,” Patterson said. “There’s a lot of down time. You could have three games in a day, one at 8 and then 1 p.m. and then 5:30 p.m. and that’s a lot for a 10-year-old to be out of the pool and relaxing. So you can only hope you get a bunch of kids who are able to sit quietly, enjoy each other’s company… That’s a big thing that separates our club and these girls. I’m amazed, with a fourth and fifth grade teaching background, that they can watch another game and conserve their energy. I’m very proud of how we acted and represented ourselves throughout the year.”
That team chemistry was only made stronger throughout the year as the girls became closer as friends who would attend birthday parties and picnics together.
“They’re more closely connected than my daughter’s friends at her own school,” said player Lucy Forrester’s mom, Sarah. “Then you see that in the parents too because we spend so much time together. We’re the group BBQing in the parking lot instead of going separate places for lunch. It’s just a really nice family connection.”
This is the second Shore team we’ve put on this historic list, and that’s not surprising for anyone who knows the club and it’s championship pedigree.
“Shore has a great history of developing talent and it’s been an honor leading this next generation of players,” Patterson said. “Our club is all about opportunity and these girls worked hard all year to make the most of theirs.”
2018 Shore 10U Girls’ Water Polo: Reece Haga, Kate Tunnicliff, Cecilia De Luca, Skylar Rahe, Olivia Garcia, Lucy Forrester, Amanda Leung, Katherine O’Dea, Francesca Garcia, Eve Webb, Lily Nelson, Drew Shelton. Head coach Brendan Patterson. Assistant coach Jarrett Tossey.
This is the eighth of 10 stories about the best Long Beach youth sports teams we’ve seen over the last decade. We’ve taken nominations from the community and will release the top 10 in no particular order. Come back next week to read about other club squads that made this historic list.