The Bahamas Aquatics Federation (BAF) has selected three teams, totaling 36 members in total, to participate in the water polo portion of the 2019 CARIFTA Aquatics Championships, and the teams are gearing up for competition. The water polo section of the championships are set for Friday April 12 to Sunday April 14, at the Barbados Aquatics Centre, in Wildey, Barbados.
The three teams are the under-14 (mixed) squad, the under-16 boys team and the under-19 boys team. All three teams are set to leave this Thursday for Barbados.
Making up the mixed team are: Dominic Demeritte, Logan Carey, Kaitlyn Williams, Justin Miller, Dereo Maycock, Christian Deveaux, Ashley Darville, Seth Roberts, Wesley Ingraham, Matthew Thompson, Joshua Gibson, Remington Minnis and Tonny Simon.
The under-16 boys team consists of Alexander Turnquest, Nicholas Wallace-Whitfield, Mataeo Ferguson, Aidan Johnson, Jelani Grant, Gabriel Encinar, Thomas Illing, Oliver Roberts, Jayden Fernander, Jayden Seymour, Skyler Dean, Akeil Smith and Dominic Beneby.
The under-19 team consists of Adonis Sasso, Loron Bain, Johnathon Demeritte, Adrian Burrows, Thor Sasso, Kurdero Major, Kurdaz
Major, Damian Gomez, Jahkai Gray and Gabriel Sastre.
The Head Coach is Laszlo “Coach Lotty” Borbely. He will be assisted by Anthony Knowles and Chris Illing. Brenna Turnquest is the team manager.
The teams have huge shoes to fill as The Bahamas won gold medals in all three divisions last year.
The under-19 team has been working out with ‘Coach Lotty’ for the past five to six years. He said he introduced the schools to water polo and made sure that the water polo players are exposed to international competition.
“I implemented a couple of things – one of them involves me going to schools and trying to introduce the sport and recruit. The water polo club, it is also a swim club and I train the swimmers who are really into water polo. I have to praise the parents for allowing me to travel overseas which is a burden on the parents. We travel to Florida and other countries to participate in competitions.” said Borbely.
He further said: “It is hard to compare this squad with the other one. Last year was our strongest year ever, we won three gold medals. Some of the players got too old or they went to college and I had to bring in new players. They do not have experience in CARIFTA surroundings and the competition level but we trained a lot. I try to use the older more experienced players to pass over the knowledge to the younger players. With the training, I try to establish a physical dominance.”
Borbely is aware that there is a target on their backs as the other nations will try to take the top spot from them.
“I had to put in nine new players in the under-14 division so I do not know how they are going to perform. I really hope that they learnt from the older players. Half of the under-16 team became the under-19 team and some of the under-19 aged out. It is very difficult to compare to last year’s team to say if it is stronger or not. We never relaxed and said we are the best, we really trained hard and did whatever is possible to do,” the experienced coach said.
Borbely singled out Gabriel Sastre, and hopes that his experience helps to push the under-19 team to victory. Sastre said that the team is getting stronger and better with every practice. He has been a part of the team for about four years and was named as one of the captains for the team.
“It’s a lot of pressure being a captain but that is why we were selected to be captains. We are here to deal with the pressure, and help motivate and encourage the players to be better,” he said. “It is going to be a really nice competition. A lot of teams like Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago will be there. They will be a good challenge but once we are playing together, we should be okay.”
‘Coach Lotty’ expects a hungry Wallace-Whitfield to pace the under-16 team and will them to victory.
Wallace-Whitfield thinks the team is prepared for CARIFTA and believes they can repeat the gold medal performance from a year ago. Like Sastre, he knows that they will get a challenge from Trinidad and Tobago and Barbados.
“Trinidad and Tobago for the under-16 and Barbados for under-19 will be tough. We beat Barbados by one point last year and we are going to play them in Barbados. I am sure they are putting in the same amount of work as we are so that they can be ready,” Wallace-Whitfield said.
He has been on the team for the past four to five years and hopes to use his experience help the team win. He hopes to score a lot of goals and be in contention for the Most Valuable Player (MVP) Award. On the under-14 team, Wallace-Whitfield said anyone can step up and be the leader of the team. One of those players he believes could lead the squad is 12-year-old Joshua Gibson. Gibson said that the practice sessions has been intense, and he believes that the team has gotten stronger.
“Hopefully we can regain our gold medal. I want to focus on one particular team – Barbados. I want to watch how their players play and encourage my team to play stronger,” Gibson said.
He said that he wants to do all he can to help his team win gold, even if it means playing through injury.
Assistant Coach Anthony Knowles is no stranger to the water polo scene. He is a FINA (International Swimming Federation) certified coach and a certified referee, and has been helping the team adjust with the new rules implemented this year.
“With me being a FINA certified referee and knowing the rules in and out, and knowing the new rules that just changed this year, helps them prepare for when we go to tournaments. They know the new rules and what to expect so they can adjust their game. It is a good thing to have me on the team to coach and referee at the same time,” Knowles said.
Knowles was on the first national team as a player back in 2004.
The CARIFTA water polo squads came a long way from 2013 to 2018. They won their first medal, a bronze, in 2014 and in 2015 the team graduated to silver. In 2016, the teams walked away with three silver medals from Trinidad and Tobago.
The team won its first ever gold medal when they won the under-16 division at the 2017 CARIFTA Championships that was held here in Nassau.
With two more practices before they leave, they hope to put in more work to defend their titles.
CARIFTA water polo teams