Led by Mitchell Carpenter and Luke Franklin and a last minute game winning shot from Tanner Childers, the Yucaipa Water Polo Team advanced to the title round of the USA Junior Olympics, being headquartered in Irvine. Yucaipa competes in under-16 age group within the Invitational Division. It qualified last Sunday along with 23 other teams nationwide after defeating Tustin and Stamford, Conn. All teams are comprised of those entering their junior year in high school.

Yucaipa was forced into a situation where it had to win both games on Sunday after losing to San Diego and to Austin, Texas in overtime on Saturday. Yucaipa finished Day 1 with a 9-1 win against Stockton. Carpenter’s 13 saves and five goals from Franklin led the way. Franklin also scored five goals in the 13-12 overtime loss to Austin. Carpenter totaled 19 saves, including two penalty saves.

Childers continued his dramatic play by scoring the deciding goal with about one minute left, for the 6-5 win over Tustin. In a qualifier game against Irvine last month, Childers scored the game winner to give the Thunderbirds a 9-8 victory.

Yucaipa coach Kevin Womack pointed out that his team is now in action in the tournament’s “copper” bracket. He said the win against Stockton on Sunday was enough to keep his team alive.

“We can still win the championship of the copper bracket which will mean we finish No. 121 in the country out of hundreds, if not thousands of teams that attempted to even qualify.”

Womack said earlier that Yucaipa was getting excellent performances from those who played on the school’s junior varsity last season, like Jacen Brown and Frederick Stein. Mitchell Walters, Jack Wilson, Elkin, and Bott have made major contributions as well.

Going into the Junior Olympic Championships, Womack stressed that Yucaipa was unique since it is a homegrown team made up of entirely Yucaipa players. He noted that most teams have rosters built on the best talent picked from numerous high schools. Womack says his team’s best asset is its work ethic.

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