It was a hard-fought battle between The Bahamas and Peru at the 2019 Swimming Union of the Americas (UANA) Jr. Pan American Water Polo Championships that is ongoing at the National Aquatics Centre in Balmain, Couva, Trinidad & Tobago, but in the end, it was The Bahamas who came through with a 14-11 victory on Wednesday.
This is Team Bahamas’ first win at the championships after five straight losses, staying alive to advance to the 2020 Water Polo Junior World Championships.
They now have a 1-5 win-loss record, tied with Peru for seventh place.
In this game, The Bahamas led all the way. Gabriel Sastre, who celebrated his 17th birthday on Tuesday, scored nine goals to ensure his team stayed alive. Coach Laszlo “Coach Lotty” Borbely said he knew they could beat Peru.
“We prepared for this match very hard. We knew we can beat them. We led the match all the way. Peru only closed in on us when we made slight mistakes,” Borbely said.
The Bahamas was up 4-1 at the end of the first quarter, and looked like the more poised team.
In the second quarter, Peru fed off Team Bahamas’ mistakes and came within one goal. The game was 6-5 in favor of The Bahamas at that point, and at the end of the second period, The Bahamas regained control, going up 8-6.
Peru kept reeling Team Bahamas in whenever The Bahamas tried to open a sizable lead. Team Bahamas finally got the separation they needed. After leading 10-8 in the third quarter, the Bahamians scored three quick goals to end the period ahead 13-8.
Peru made a strong push in the fourth quarter but The Bahamas’ defense held them off as they settled for a 14-11 victory and two pivotal points.
After the game, Sastre said: “My role as the captain of the team is to motivate, encourage and make sure that my teammates are in pristine condition to compete at their highest level along. I’m able to score quite a number of goals because of my teammates and from years of experience locally and internationally.”
Today, Team Bahamas plays host nation Trinidad & Tobago. That match will be held at 1 p.m. This is a pivotal game as the winner will hold the sixth position and will play against the fifth-place team for qualification to the 2020 Junior World Championships – the team’s ultimate goal.
“We know Trinidad. We played them at CARIFTA. They are at home and they beat Peru by one goal,” Borbely said.
At this year’s CARIFTA Water Polo Championships in Barbados, The Bahamas defeated Trinidad & Tobago in the under-16 boys’ division championship game. With The Bahamas playing in Trinidad, the host nation will look to get revenge.
The Bahamas’ leading goal scorer said that he wants to keep his team motivated for this big game.
“My mindset going up against the host team is positive like any other game, performing to the best of my ability and keeping my team motivated. With this mindset, we will be able to achieve success,” he said.
It was a tough beginning to the tournament for Team Bahamas, but Borbely said they had to stay strong mentally because they knew they had to go through difficult matches to get to this point.
On Tuesday, The Bahamas lost 23-1 to the U.S. Sastre was the lone goal scorer in that game for The Bahamas. The U.S. led 19-0 in the first half. Sastre’s lone goal came in the fourth and final quarter. The Americans had a tremendous size advantage and their defense was superb.
On Monday, The Bahamas fell to Argentina, 26-6. Sastre finished with two goals in that game for The Bahamas. On Sunday, Sastre scored four goals in a 28-5 loss for The Bahamas to Brazil.
Team Bahamas played Canada close in the first half of their game, but they faltered in the second half. The Canadians went on to win easily, 21-9. Sastre led the way with eight goals for The Bahamas in that game.
In their opening game on Friday evening, Colombia took town The Bahamas 29-7.
This is the first time The Bahamas has qualified for and participated in the UANA Jr. Pan American Water Polo Championships. The team qualified for the tournament last summer by winning the silver medal at the Central American and Caribbean Amateur Swimming Confederation (CCCAN) Water Polo Championships in El Salvador. They narrowly lost to Puerto Rico in the final.
The week-long UANA Jr. Pan American Water Polo Championships wraps up with the gold, bronze and consolation games tomorrow.