CARIFTA water polo team back home with hardware
The Bahamas’ CARIFTA water polo teams returned from Barbados on Monday with gold, silver and bronze, as none of the three teams came back empty-handed.
Winning the gold medal was the under-16 boys team. The silver and bronze medals came from the under-14 mixed and under-19 boys teams respectively.
Head Coach Laszlo “Coach Lotty” Borbely said there was a big question mark about the under-14 team heading to Barbados, but he is pleased with how they all performed.
“There were nine new people who had to be taught and integrated on the under-14 team. I was very confident about the under-16 team. The under-19 team had one of their best players in college and he aged out. It was not obvious what we were going to do in this competition. It was realized quickly that Trinidad was a real powerhouse. They have been doing this since 1997,” Borbely said.
Jayden Seymour walked away as the best goalie in the under-16 category. He made a golden save in the gold medal game against Trinidad and Tobago to help his team win that match, 12-11.
Seymour said: “It was a good game. In the beginning we were up by five. In the third and fourth quarters, they caught up with us. When it was 12-11, I remembered the referee gave a foul to a Trinidad and Tobago player with zero seconds left on the clock. I remembered thinking that if I save this, it will be our game but if I don’t, it would go to golden goal or penalties. When I saved it, I felt a sense of pride and happiness. I got very emotional when that happened.”
This was Seymour’s first year on the under-16 team.
Overall, Borbely said that it was a fantastic haul, and he thinks that the program is headed in the right direction.
“We got three medals again. We know our program is going strong. We know we have the next generation in the under-14, and we know what we have to do. We have to try get more coaches, pool time and figure out how to get more athletes,” he said.
Dominic Demeritte was the overall leading goal scorer in the under-14 category.
“Nothing goes through my mind when I’m playing. It is more like an instant – my body moves without my mind really thinking for some of the plays that I do. It is something that I have to grasp after I do it and I realize that I scored,” Demeritte said.
The team came away with the silver medal after losing 24-15 to Trinidad and Tobago. Demeritte said he felt they could have won gold.
“It felt good. It felt like we could have won gold if we had tried a bit harder but silver is good, I’ll take it,” he said.
This was his final year in the under-14 category, and is looking forward to playing on the under-16 national team next year.
Kaitlyn Williams, the only female on the team, won the best defender award in the under-14 mixed team category.
She said: “I was very happy because I have never won a personal award. I tried my hardest and I was not expecting much. I was happy that I end up getting it.”
About the experience of being the only girl, she said: “It is a good experience. I was the only girl and they are family to me. They helped me grow and get stronger in the sport.”
Sadly, for Williams, this might be her last year playing the sport competitively because there is no mixed team in the under-16 category. She hopes there is a female team formed so she can play competitively next year and in the years to come.
About the championship game she said: “It is tough. We were winning for the first three quarters. They had more fitness than we did. They caught us in the final quarter.”
Borbely agreed with Williams about the fitness level of the under-14 team.
“There was a fitness problem in the fourth quarter. It was very useful for me to know, but I wish I did not learn about it over there. I know why – we played seven-minute quarters in a 25-meter pool. It was longer and tougher than we practiced. They got tired in the fourth quarter,” Borbely said.
Gabriel Sastre, the overall leading goal scorer in the under-19 category, said that the competition was really good.
“We had really good opponents. As everyone knows, Trinidad and Barbados came out and played and it was really good competition,” Sastre said.
The Bahamas lost 12-11 to Barbados in the semifinal game on Saturday night.
“It happens – it’s the game, you lose and you win. In the last two years, Barbados actually lost by one goal to us. I guess they had the home pool advantage and won by one this year. You can’t do anything about it. We will see what happens next year.”
On Sunday, Sastre and his team won the bronze against Bonaire, coming out on top 15-10. He said they played the way they trained, in that game.
Sastre has two more years left in the under-19 age group and believes they will win at least one title before he is no longer eligible due to age, particularly with a number of the under-16 team members moving up.
As for next year, Borbely said: “The under-14 team needs a lot of attention. This is where you have to catch them and put them on the highest level so the standards last for them. I want every team to have a separate coach who will be responsible for them – that will be very good. The younger generation needs to be grabbed at a very young age so that we could teach them early.”
Borbely also reported that there were no injuries this year. The Bahamas Aquatics Federation (BAF) sent two masseuses on the trip as officials to ensure that the team is relaxed, and ready for multiple games in a day.
The water polo program will resume on Tuesday as they get ready for the Pan American Games. They will also be preparing for the CCCAN (Central American and Caribbean Swimming Federation) Championships. There are also plans for a six-member team to join the Texas Storm water polo club in Dallas, Texas to compete in one of America’s biggest club competitions.
Education: College of the Bahamas, BA Media Journalism