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Water polo 17th at Junior Olympics
Pacific Northwest team, with four Islanders, falls out of top 10 at National tourney
The Pacific Northwest United men’s 18 and underwater polo team, with four Islander starters, played to a ranking of 17th place during the National Junior Olympics held in San Jose, Calif., on July 28-31.
The team placed in the top 10 last year for the first time. But the 48 teams that came to California from across the United States competed for the coveted Junior Olympics championship and was ultimately won by the team from Lamorinda, Calif.
Mercer Island residents Brian Chong, Eugene Chong, Sam Sussman and Ari Wes were starters on the team, and Brian Chong was the overall offensive leader with a tournament total of 21 goals.
“I actually thought we would do better, like top six or eight,” said Chong. “It was still great to play with some of the best in the country. Just a great experience.”
United won its first game with ease, 11-2 over Cardinal and Gold, thanks to four goals by Brian Chong and two by Sussman.
United took on a top-seeded team during its second game of the tournament, earning an 8-6 victory. Brian Chong again led the team with four goals, as well as goals from Sussman and Eugene Chong.
The second day of the event brought a bigger challenge for United as they were pitted against the California team, Ventura County Premiere, which ultimately placed sixth overall. United’s opponents were held to seven goals by great defensive teamwork. Brian Chong (2) and Sussman (2) accounted for all of United goals during the contest.
Game four resulted in a disappointing loss when the team experienced a series of turnovers, ejections and missed opportunities during the third quarter. A solid effort from the team during the final quarter narrowed the lead but was not enough to overcome the deficit as United lost to San Diego Wind and Sea 11-8 and moving United out of the running for the championship.
The remaining three games were victories, including a 13-8 victory over D Anza, a 5-3 win against Santa Barbra and a 12-6 hammering of Foothills. The three wins secured the highest ranking by a Northwest team since 2004. This was the last shared tournament for Chong brothers as Brian Chong will join the University of California at Santa Barbara team in September, while Sussman, Wes and Eugene Chong will move up to form the backbone of the Islanders water polo team at Mercer Island High School.
“It was exciting to play in one last tournament before I move on to college,” said Brian Chong. “It will be weird to leave but I know that they will hold down the fort for MI and it will be exciting to see what they do.”
Girls water polo competes in Junior Olympics
The Pacific Northwest U18 women’s team took 21st place out of 48 and included national team member Jordan Heide, Emma Peterson, and Camille Norman.
The 16-and-under girls water polo team, primarily from the Eastside, including many Island girls, placed ninth out of 48 teams and included Amy Carlson, Laura Horton, Liz Kreek, Sara Lowes, Mac Maynes, Emily McKaig, Amanda Nussbaum and Zoya Popoff.
Mercer Island resident Melanie Wroe and Jeff Norman contributed to this story.