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GIRLS' WATER POLO: VENTURA COAST READY TO DISPLAY ITS DEVELOPMENT.

Byline: HEATHER GRIPP Staff Writer

The Ventura County water polo community is proud of the significant strides it has made in recent years, and hopes to show that development to the rest of the country this week.

The girls' water polo S&R Sport Junior Olympics are being held in Ventura County for the first time, beginning today with 168 teams from around the nation competing in four age divisions at 10 sites. The double- elimination tournament runs through Sunday, with championship-round play expected to begin around noon at the Ventura Aquatics Center.

``Ventura County is really developing,'' said Thousand Oaks High and Ventura Coast club team coach Mike Giles, who is helping coordinate the event.

``There have been a lot of new pools and really nice facilities built out here, the level of competition is soaring and interest in the sport is growing. To really get it harnessed and show it to the nation is a great opportunity. We are excited to be a part of it. ... You will have the best girls in the nation out here.''

Traditional powers Commerce, San Diego Shores and Stanford are among the clubs participating from outside the area.

L.A. Water Polo Club, featuring players from the South Bay to Ventura County, will be attempting to match the success of its boys' program, which claimed the 16-and-under championship Tuesday at the boys' Junior Olympics.

LAWPC's girls finished sixth at the senior nationals earlier this summer.

Agoura High standout Casey Flacks plans to play for LAWPC's 16-and-under and 18-and-under teams.

Harvard-Westlake of Studio City graduate and Cal-bound Meredith Butte is one of three players on LAWPC's 18-under team who has signed with a Division I college.

Ventura Coast, with several locals, also is expecting a solid showing.

``I think we'll do well,'' Giles said. ``If you can get in the top 20 in this tournament, you've done an awesome job.

``I compare it to March Madness in college basketball. You've got so many teams from around the country that are so good, you always see someone upset in the first round. Fortunately, here you still have a chance to come back through the losers' bracket. It's a pretty intense four days.''

Games will be played at Thousand Oaks, Westlake, Newbury Park, Rio Mesa, Oxnard, Buena of Ventura, and Ventura high schools as well as Ventura College, Rancho Simi Park in Simi Valley and the Ventura Aquatics Center.
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Aug 3, 2006
Words:404
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