It was a bittersweet moment for The Bahamas’ under-18 boys water polo team over the weekend as they qualified for the 2020 Swimming Union of the Americas (UANA) Pan American Youth Water Polo Championships but withdrew from the gold medal game at the 28th Central American and Caribbean Amateur Swimming Confederation (CCCAN) Water Polo Championships at the Barbados National Aquatics Center, in Wildey, Christ Church, Barbados.
The CCCAN Water Polo Championships got underway on Thursday and wrapped up on Sunday.
The team settled for the bronze medal, as the host nation and Puerto Rico played for the gold.
Head Coach Laszlo “Coach Lotty” Borbely said that it was disappointing that they were not able to play in the gold medal match.
“That was very disappointing. The players learnt that they could not stay for the entire time because of a shortage of money. They feel very disappointed. When you are playing and you know that you are not going to be in the final no matter what you do it affects you,” Borbely said.
The semifinal game with The Bahamas was set for yesterday at 10:30 a.m. and the gold medal game was set for 7 p.m. later that evening. However, because of financial constraints, the Bahamas Aquatics Federation’s (BAF) arranged for the team to depart Barbados at 6:55 a.m. yesterday morning. They were awarded the bronze medal and returned to The Bahamas at 4 p.m. yesterday.
Over the three days of competition, they played very well. Gabriel Sastre led the way for Team Bahamas with 17 goals. He was followed by Gaby Encinar with 10 goals.
In their last game on Saturday evening against a strong Puerto Rican team, The Bahamas kept it as close as possible in the first period. However, the Puerto Ricans controlled the match. They went up 4-1 after one period and were ahead 8-1 after the second period.
The Bahamas continued to play strong defense, but the Puerto Ricans kept finding a way to score. They went into the final quarter up 12-2 and in total control of the game.
With seven minutes left in the fourth quarter and the score at 13-2, The Bahamas dug deep and ended the game strong. They went on a six-goal scoring spree to end the game. The final score was 16-8 in favor of Puerto Rico.
Nicholas Wallace-Whitfield and Encinar scored two goals apiece in that game for The Bahamas. Sastre, Loron Bain, Alex Turnquest and Jelani Grant scored one game each.
Borbely explained that coming to CCCAN was a good choice. He said he is happy that the team qualified for the 2020 UANA Pan American Youth Water Polo Championships.
“It gave us a chance to see where we are at. The surroundings, clock and field were okay. It was a good competition. With the shot clock use and the new substitution style, we are smooth with that. We are getting accustomed to the new referee style that is a little more like basketball where once someone has an advantage, they cannot be touched. If that happens it will be an exclusion foul or a penalty – we are getting used to that. What we need to work on is the longer field that is 30 meters long and not 25 meters. That is a lot more swimming considering that the quarters are eight minutes stoppage time and not six minutes. We need to practice that more,” Borbely said.
In their third game on Friday night against Barbados, The Bahamas clobbered the host nation, winning 20-12. In that game, Sastre led the way with eight goals. Encinar had four goals. Bain had three goals and Dominic Demeritte had two goals. Scoring one goal each were Turnquest, Wallace-Whitfield and Dominic Beneby.
Earlier that day, Puerto Rico toppled The Bahamas 20-8. The goal scorers for The Bahamas were Encinar with four, Sastre with three and Demeritte with one.
In the opening game on Thursday morning, The Bahamas won 12-9 over Barbados. In that game, Sastre had five goals and Wallace-Whitfield had three goals. Bain, Demeritte, Turnquest and Damian Gomez had once goal each.
The 2019 UANA Pan American Youth Water Polo Championships will be held at the National Aquatic Centre in Balmain Couva, Trinidad and Tobago, from August 14-24, 2019. The Bahamas will take part in the 17-and-under division.
“Every time that we are at the Pan American Championships, there is a chance that we could become the first five and we could qualify for the world championships which is the highest level in water polo in age group. It is a very good thing. It is historical as The Bahamas has never achieved that before. It is very important for the sport. We proved that we are good on the Caribbean level and the Pan American also,” Borbely said.
According to Borbely, the CCCAN team consisted of primarily 17-year-olds. He wanted to give them a feel for what is to come.
The 2020 UANA Pan American Youth Polo Water Polo Championships will take place in Edmonton, Canada. The Bahamas will take part in the 19-and-under division.
Sastre, Gomez, Johnson, Turnquest, Wallace-Whitfield and Oliver Roberts, who played with the Houston Storm water polo team out of Houston, Texas, will have a chance to play in the USA Water Polo Junior Olympics, slated for July 20-23, 2019.
Education: College of the Bahamas, BA Media Journalism