Brynn Shaffer  / SMDP Intern

This past July, the Team Santa Monica (TSM) U18 boys club water polo team took home the gold medal in the bronze division at the USA water polo Junior Olympics, marking the first major victory for the club.

“It is really hard to medal in this tourney,” said Matthew Flanders, TSM head coach who has been coaching water polo for over 26 years, in an email to the Daily Press. “We are going against well-established clubs with scores of players. For a brand new small club, it is a fantastic achievement.”

For Flanders, the process of qualifying alone was a strenuous ordeal. 

“The USA Water Polo’s Junior Olympics is the biggest youth water polo tournament in the world,” Flanders said. “The competition is fierce to make any of the divisions. We had to qualify through our zone in May, which was difficult, and then get through some tough first-round games to get into medal contention.”

Founded in 1978, USA Water Polo is the largest governing body for water polo in the U.S. Its mission includes governance of the U.S. Olympic Men’s and Women’s Water Polo Teams and is considered the development pipeline of future athletes for the Olympic Games.

The competition, which took place at Palo Alto High School, was filled with competitive teams. TSM played against SoAC (Southern Alameda County) in the final round and won, 10-5.

The team is made up of loads of Samohi students, with some standout players being Cormac Flanders (Samo ’21), Darragh Flanders (Samo ’24) and Niko Galvan (Samo ’22).

“It was a great weekend and the kids worked extremely hard to earn this medal,” Flanders concluded. “They are a great bunch of young men.”