Girls water polo

The Under-14 680 Drivers girls water polo team beat the best teams in the country recently and were crowned national champions at the Junior Olympics in Southern California.

This year, more than 500 teams and over 8,000 athletes spent the better part of two weeks competing to find out who is the best.

The 680 Drivers is comprised mostly of girls from in and around Danville. Last year after their seventh place finish at the Junior Olympics, the team had a meeting and set a goal to be the best in 2013. They added practice sessions did more dry land conditioning in addition to swim team and regular water polo practice. This equated to two-to-three practice sessions per day while cramming in any weekend tournament they could find.

The hard work paid off early as they went undefeated in the Junior Olympic qualifying tournament and were seeded seventh going into the main event.

In day one of bracket play they defeated Bakersfield and Newport Beach. On day two, they played the San Diego Shores, known for a physical style of play but was unmatched by 680's speed and fluid passing.

The next game against No. 2-ranked Laguna Beach, which lost an earlier game. That meant 680 had to win or tie the game in regulation time to win their bracket and advance to the medal round. The 680 team took a big lead early, but the lead diminished by the fourth quarter. The lead flip-flopped twice in the final minutes and ended in a tie after regulation play. This led to two shootouts and Laguna came out on top of the game by one goal, but lost the bracket to 680.


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The next morning brought a game against Rose Bowl which 680 won 11—8 semi-finals and a shot at the national title. The win also gave them the afternoon off while the loser's bracket battled for a semifinal berth.

Sunday morning brought back San Diego Shores from the losers bracket for another physical, drama filled game. Neither the physical or dramatic nature of Shores style of play were enough to match defense, fitness and ball handling of 680. When the final buzzer sounded, 680 was up by two. This led them to the finals against No. 1 seed and last year's winner Santa Barbara at UC Irvine.

In the final minutes against Santa Barbara, 680 center Lexi Liebowitz scored a miracle shot to put her team ahead. Covered by two defenders and the ball in hand behind her near her waist, Lexi, the tournament's MVP, flicked the ball backhanded over her back, and over the goalkeepers head for the score.

"Their teamwork, tenacity and willingness to work hard was unmatched by any group of girls I've ever coached," 680 coach Todd Halvorson said. "As a coach, what more could I ask for? For 12 months these girls gave me everything I asked of them and more. Now they can enjoy the fruits of their labors."