It was a banner weekend for CAMO Water Polo at Senior Nationals with the CAMO Roadrunners capturing the men’s title and the CAMO White squad winning the women’s championship. Playing in front of a partisan home crowd in Montreal, the CAMO club was able to capture three of the six medals awarded this weekend and assert their place at the top of Senior Canadian water polo.
For all the success to come, the weekend did not start promisingly for CAMO. In the women’s bracket, the 3rd seeded CAMO Blue squad was knocked out in the quarterfinals by 6th seeded Dollard Black. Coming into the game with only one victory on the year, Dollard Black no doubt played the best game of the season, pushing the Blue squad from start to finish. Even so, when Molly Demers scored her 4th of the game with one second remaining in the 3rd quarter, and gave CAMO a three goal lead, it looked like the DDO effort would still fall short. Down 13-10 entering the 4th quarter, the odds seemed a little too high. An early answer from Olivia McMullen gave Dollard some hope, and strong defense from there on out kept the west islanders in the game. A late exclusion to CAMO gave DDO the chance to tie and Erin Cuggy made no mistake, tying the game at 14 with under a minute to play. Neither team could find a winner in the last minute so the game was off to a shoot-out. Dollard goalie Johanna Papadimitriou set the tone for DDO in the shootout, making a great save on CAMO’s first shooter. CAMO could not climb out of the early hole, and after two of their shots clanged off the crossbar, DDO moved on to the semi-finals.
The other women’s quarter-final saw the western champion’s from Saskatchewan face-off against Hammer. The first half could not have been tighter with the scored being tied at 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 goals each. A late goal by Blaire McDowell gave Saskatchewan a one goal lead into half-time and that seemed to be the turning point. Saskatchewan controlled the 2nd half from the start thanks to three quick goals from Adrien Van Dyke. The game ended with a comfortable 19-14 victory for the Westerners.
After watching their counterparts win their quarter-final, the men from Saskatchewan looked to pull a surprise of their own. Facing the favoured Mavericks, Team Saskatchewan got off to a slow start and found themselves in a 6-2 hole. The score was 9-5 halfway through the 3rd and the Mavericks seemed well on their way to a fairly straightforward victory; but as the 3rd quarter wound down, the Sask men would show their ability to finish strong. Three goals in under 2 minutes to close the quarter brought Sask to within one entering the 4th. Mavericks regrouped and led 11-9 with under 1:30 to go in the 4th quarter, when Sask once again came roaring back. Jesh Kapila’s 2nd of the game, and Eric Graham’s 4th, tied Saskatchewan up in a matter of 35 seconds. Mavericks pushed for the later winner hoping to avoid a shootout but turned the ball over with seconds to play. Kapila had leaked out for Saskatchewan and was all alone 5 meters in front of the Mavs goalie. One perfect pass later, and Kaipla had all the time and space needed to fire home the winner and put Sask in the semi-finals.
The other men’s quarter-final between Ottawa United and CAMO Masters was expected to be a close affair as their two regular season meetings saw only a two goal difference between the teams. United jumped out to a quick 5-2 lead, but nine unanswered goals by Masters in the 2nd and 3rd quarters were more than enough for CAMO.
The semi-final round was now set as the competition moved into Saturday evening. In the first game, DDO Black appeared to have used all their energy up in their quarter-final against CAMO Blue, and had nothing left in the tank for top seeded CAMO White. CAMO White cruised to a 19-4 victory to advance to the finals. In the 2nd women’s semi-final, Saskatchewan continued their penchant for upsets, knocking off 2nd seeded Capital Wave in a shootout. Capital Wave jumped out to an early 3-0 lead and it appeared Sask might suffer a similar fate to DDO, but three late goals in the 2nd quarter tied the game right back up. From the point forward, neither team would hold more than 1 goal lead. Auriel Bill hoped she scored the winner with 2:33 to go, but Alice Nepveu answered immediately for Wave and the game went to a shootout tied at seven. In the shootout, one miss from Capital Wave proved to be the difference, as all five Saskatchewan shooters scored on perfectly placed shots.
In the first men’s semi-final, the two time defending Toronto Golden Jets took on Saskatchewan. The game was a rematch of last year’s semi-finals. The game itself was similar to the previous year as the Jets would jump out to a big early lead and come away with a relaxed victory. In the 2nd semi-final, CAMO Roadrunners were hoping for a similar relaxed victory over their club-mates the CAMO Masters. With a 9-4 lead late in the 2nd, it looked like that’s what it was going to be; then, Masters went on one of their runs again. Four straight by the Masters brought them with in one going into the 4th quarter. After making it look so easy in the first, the Roadrunners’ offense was no where to be seen as they managed only one goal in the entire 2nd half. It appeared only a matter of time until Masters tied the score; but the goals also dried up for them in the 4th quarter, and the Masters would fall one goal short, losing 10-9.
The Finals for Sunday were set. CAMO White against Saskatchewan for the women’s title. CAMO Roadrunners vs. Toronto Golden Jet’s for the men. After pulling two straight upsets, Saskatchewan looked for the trifecta and the gold medal against top seeded and powerhouse CAMO White. The game was a defensive affair from the start with Saskatchewan locking down CAMO’s Axelle Crevier and CAMO swimming hard to stifle Sask counterattacks by Adrien Van Dyke and Auriel Bill. The teams traded the lead through the first three quarters and Sask held the edge heading into the 4th, up 5-4. Exclusions would get Sask into trouble early in the 4th. Back to back exclusions led to two CAMO goals and all of a sudden Saskatchewan was down. Another PP goal from Elena Barri pushed CAMO’s lead to two with three minutes to play. Saskatchewan would need to channel their men’s team and try for a furious last minute come-back if they were to win. It almost happened. Blaire McDowell brought Saskatchewan within one with 24 seconds to go and then Sask pressure forced a CAMO turnover with under 10 seconds to play. There was barely enough time remaining for a shot and so Ellen Rafferty tried to skip one past Clara Vulpisi to tie the game. Vulpisi was equal to the task and CAMO escaped with their 3rd consecutive Senior crown.
The men’s final feature the much anticipated match between CAMO Roadrunners and the Toronto Golden Jets. The Jets we’re going for their 3rd straight title while CAMO looked to win back the Goulden Cup for the first time since 2013. The teams split their regular season meetings so it seemed fitting a 3rd and final game would decide the championship. The game was a tense affair with the momentum swinging back and forth. CAMO was able to grab the early lead and spent the first half trying to put some distance between themselves and the Jets. A 6-3 lead in the 2nd looked promising, but in a flash it was erased by the Jets, and early in the 3rd the game was tied once again. The game would swing again on a four minute powerplay for the Roadrunners that would take up the rest of the 3rd quarter. CAMO was able to use the man advantage to turn a one goal lead into a three goal lead with just a quarter to play. The Jets pressed for the tie in the 4th and were able to pull within two goals with 5 minutes left. Unfortunately for the Jets, Maxime Gallant was simply on fire for the Roadrunners. His 6th goal of the game with 2:35 left put CAMO up 15-12 and effectively won the title for CAMO.
The 2016 edition of Senior Nationals once again proved to be an exciting event from start to finish. Congratulations to all the teams and see you again in 2017.
2016 Senior National Final Results
Men’s Gold: CAMO Roadrunners
Men’s Silver: Toronto Golden Jets
Men’s Bronze: CAMO Masters
Women’s Gold: CAMO White
Women’s Silver: Saskatchewan
Women’s Bronze: Capital Wave
Individual Award Winners
Top Goal Scorer: Julien Sirard-Forest – CAMO Masters
Most Valuable Goalie: Emirhan Ozdemir – Toronto Golden Jets
Most Valuable Defensive Player – Hrvoje Vukic – Mavericks
Most Valuable Player, Regular Season – Rudy Despaigne-Sauquet – Toronto Golden Jets
Most Valuable Player, Senior Nationals – Maxime Gallant – CAMO Roadrunners
Most Valuable Coach – Robert Couillard – CAMO Roadrunners
Top Goal Scorer: Yasmine Rachid – CAMO White
Most Valuable Goalie: Clara Vulpisi – CAMO White
Most Valuable Defensive Player – Joannie Morisseau – CAMO Blue
Most Valuable Player, Regular Season – Rachel Baxter – Capital Wave
Most Valuable Player, Senior Nationals – Axelle Crevier – CAMO White
Most Valuable Coach – Adrian Steenkamer – Capital Wave