It's going to be quite a caravan heading to Palo Alto this summer for the Junior Olympic Water Polo Tournament.
The Modesto-Stanislaus Water Polo club has qualified six teams for this year's tournament, three each for the boys and girls, but the girls get an opportunity to improve their title chances this weekend.
There are three qualifying tournaments at Oakdale and Johansen, with the top teams receiving higher seeds when the national tournament gets under way Aug. 1.
The top 36 girls' seeds go to the championship bracket at the national tournament, the next 24 to the challenger bracket.
The higher a seed the better the chance to go deep into the tourney.
"This weekend has the best club teams in Central California and almost all are compilations from their area high schools," said Brent Bohlender, the former Johansen High legend who runs the local water polo club.
"One of the better teams is American River, which draws from around 20 schools, as does Sac Polo."
Stockton Polo has a heavy St. Mary's influence, he added, but also gets players from other Stockton-area schools.
Modesto-Stanislaus primarily attracts players from Turlock, Modesto and the Merced region. It will have girls' 18-, 16- and 14-and-under teams in the pool, the 16s at Oakdale and the others at Johansen.
There's another local team, too: SOAK is primarily made up of kids who played for Sonora and Oakdale this spring, and it will have three teams.
Saturday's "pool" competition will set the pairings for Sunday's knockout rounds.
The 18s title match is at 6 at Johansen, while the 16s play for the title at 4:10 at Oakdale and the 14s play for their title at 4:40 in the Johansen pool.
The competition is just one aspect of the summer polo season, Bohlender. The other is an opportunity to get noticed.
"Exposure is the key element (in Junior Olympics)," said Bohlender, in the Sac-Joaquin Section and USA Water Polo Hall of Fame. "It is the main avenue to look at potential players. College coaches put Junior Olympics on their schedule to look at proven athletes, and to discover that diamond in the rough."
Two of the stars on Bohlender's 18 girls' team, Johansen's Kaysie Lewis and Los Banos' Morgan Hurley, have earned partial scholarships to Sonoma State and Colorado State.
"The 18s are coached by (Delta College coach) Kendra Kline and have representation from Los Banos, Merced, Pitman, Ceres and Johansen," Bohlender noted. "It also has the MVPs from the Central California (Merced's Allison Miller) and Modesto Metro (Lewis) conferences."
The club's top boys' team is the 16-and-under, coached by Toby Stonelake and former Johansen star Brad Fuller. It's full of local talent, including MMC MVP Corey Plaster (Johansen), Nic Ogden (Turlock), Evan Tricky (Beyer) and Sam Cicarrelli (Downey).
The boys' national tourney is July 27-31; the girls get in the pool when the boys exit.
A Wet & Wild Weekend
Modesto-Stanislaus Water Polo is hosting four Junior Olympic tournaments this weekend at four Stanislaus District high schools:
18-and-under girls Saturday and Sunday at Johansen.
16-and-under girls Saturday and Sunday at Oakdale.
14-and-under girls Saturday at Sunday at Johansen.
10-and-under mixed Saturday at Downey & Modesto.
Saturday's action begins at 8 a.m. Sunday's play starts at 7 a.m.