It was a back and forth game between The Bahamas and Trinidad and Tobago’s 17-and-under boys teams at the 2019 Swimming Union of the Americas (UANA) Jr. Pan American Water Polo Championships on Thursday, and in the end, it finished in a 9-9 tie with Trinidad and Tobago advancing to the fifth-place game. The championships are ongoing at the National Aquatics Centre in Balmain, Couva, Trinidad & Tobago (T&T).
The host nation finished in sixth place and Team Bahamas finished seventh after the preliminary round. They both have the same amount of points but Trinidad and Tobago finished as the higher seed because they won the tiebreaker.
The Bahamas will play Peru in the seventh-place game today at 1 p.m. Trinidad and Tobago will play Colombia afterwards for fifth place and a chance to qualify for the 2020 Water Polo Junior World Championships.
The heated game yesterday was a very physical one that saw eight ties and two lead changes.
“We led the game, they equalized, we led the game, they equalized. Then the game was over and unfortunately the 9-9 draw puts Trinidad in the sixth position and us in the seventh position,” said Team Bahamas Head Coach Laszlo “Coach Lotty” Borbely.
The Bahamas scored first, going up 1-0. The host tied it 1-1 a few minutes later. At the end of the first quarter the score was tied at three.
A couple of goals were scored in the second quarter with the two teams scoring one goal each. Trinidad and Tobago struck first to take a 4-3 lead. Team Bahamas returned the favor, tying the game 4-4 heading into the half.
According to Borbely, the team was unable to finish.
“The problem today was the unsuccessful finishing of the goal opportunities. A team cannot miss that many one-on-one opportunities to score. To win a game the players must score,” he said.
In the third quarter the Trinidadians found the back of the net first, taking a 5-4 lead. The Bahamas tied it up and then went up 6-5.
After the host tied it at 6-6, Team Bahamas’ Nicholas Wallace-Whitfield and captain Gabriel Sastre put The Bahamas up by two, giving the team an 8-6 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
Trinidad and Tobago found the back of the net twice to tie the game at eight.
“The game today could’ve been way better if we were able to score on our many opportunities,” Sastre said.
The Bahamas’ Jelani Grant broke the tie and gave The Bahamas a 9-8 lead. The Bahamas tried to protect the lead but the host found a way to score from the left corner, tying the game 9-9. The game ended in a tie, and the crowd got into it as the result advanced Trinidad and Tobago to the fifth-place game.
Sastre found the back of the net in the waning seconds but the goal was disallowed as a foul was called on The Bahamas. The final whistle blew and the hopes of Team Bahamas of advancing to the 2020 Water Polo Junior World Championships were dashed.
Borbely said: “One of the positive aspects of the game was the fact that we were the better team. We attacked more. We developed more situations than Trinidad. We swam through the entire game and we led in the game time and time again. Just in the last seconds, the score was even. For the Peru match (seventh-place game) we have to shake off the feeling of disappointment of the draw. We have to get mentally tough and perform like nothing happened.”
Sastre echoed his coach’s sentiments, saying he would like to motivate the team to stay positive for the upcoming match against Peru.
He also thanked the Bahamian fans for tuning into the live stream of the game.
Other than Whitfield-Wallace, Grant and Sastre, The Bahamas was represented by Dominic Beneby, Dominic Demeritte, Gabriel Encinar, Jahkai Gray, Alexander Gomez, Aidan Johnson, Oliver Roberts, Jayden Seymour and Alexander Turnquest.
Borbely was assisted by Daniel Stojanovski, FINA (International Swimming Federation) referee Anthony Knowles, physiotherapist Michelle Roache and chaperone Anitrah Rolle rounded out the delegation from The Bahamas.
The week-long UANA Jr. Pan American Water Polo Championships wraps up today with the gold, bronze and consolation games.