The Santa Barbara Water Polo Foundation was formed in 1975 by Dante Dettamanti who coached at UCSB from 1974-76 before leaving for Stanford University. Pete Snyder took over in 1977. In 1979, Snyder led the Gauchos to the first Division I NCAA title in school history and was among the most successful coaches ever at UCSB. UCSB soccer won the school’s second title 27 years later. In 15 years at Santa Barbara, Snyder coached 31 All-Americans.
Jim Ranta of Dos Pueblos High School, the “Godfather” of water polo in Santa Barbara County, joined Snyder in building SBWPF. Ranta graduated from UCSB in 1969 where he swam and played water polo for Coach Rick Rowland. Over the next 33 years, Ranta coached generations of players at Dos Pueblos High School, Santa Barbara High School, and with the SBWPC. Jim Ranta took his first break from coaching in 2002 after his son Jeff graduated from DP. Ranta continues to serve as a Board member of the Foundation and is an active U.S. Water Polo referee. Ranta coached numerous high school All-Americans. In 2004, Chris Segesman became the first DP water polo Olympian.
Don Randall of Santa Barbara High School, a 1974 graduate of UCSB and former Gaucho, worked along side Ranta in coaching the community’s 16 and under players. The Santa Barbara Water Polo Club’s goal was to provide the opportunity for a beginning player to progress to the caliber of an international participant. Almost immediately, SBWP sent teams to Senior, Junior, and High School tournaments.
In 1980, five years after formation of SBWPF, the 18-and-under boys team, led by Pete Snyder and Allen Lorentzen, won a gold medal at the Junior Olympic National Championships. Santa Barbara eliminated a strong Newport Harbor team and went on to win the title game in Milwaukee, WI. This team was composed of standout athletes from Dos Pueblos, San Marcos, Santa Barbara, and Cabrillo High Schools. Today SBWPF’s boys and girls teams continue to draw upon players from high schools throughout the Central Coast.
SBWPF accomplished its goal of producing international caliber players during the early 1980s when Gauchos Craig Wilson and Greg Boyer represented the United States in the Olympic Games. Both were members of UCSB’s 1979 NCAA Championship team. Wilson went on to rank among the finest goalies in water polo history helping the USA win three Olympic medals. Over the next twenty years, several more SBWPC players joined the Senior Men’s National Team.
Guy Baker, current head coach of the Women’s U.S. National Team, also played on UCSB’s ’79 national championship team. Baker previously was head coach at UCLA and of the U.S. Men’s National Team. Aaron Chaney, another ’79 team member, was the top U.S. water polo referee at the 2004 Athens games and will retain his position in Beijing. In 2006, the 1979 team celebrated their 27th anniversary by winning the 45 plus U.S. Masters National Championship in San Diego, CA and the 45 plus World Championship at the XI FINA World Masters Championships in Palo Alto, CA.
During the 1980s and early 1990s, SBWPC teams continued to mature, placing in the coveted top four at Men’s Senior Nationals on four occasions. The club’s highest finish was second place in 1986. SBWPC produced numerous senior All Americans establishing the club as a perennial power in U.S. Water Polo. SBWPC became a foundation (501c3) in 1989.
In 1992, Scott Brennand, a graduate of San Marcos High School and SBWPF player, led Santa Barbara to the Foundation’s first 15 and under Junior Olympic Championship. In 1996, Brennand’s 17 and under Boy’s garnered Santa Barbara’s third Junior Olympic Championship.
At the 2006 National Championship tournament, Paul Rave and Wolf Wigo led SBWPC’s 18 and under Boy’s to the club’s first national championship in a decade. SBWPF’s team, composed entirely of local players, defeated traditional powerhouse clubs including teams from Socal and San Diego stacked with Junior National Team members.
Girls water polo did not exist at area high schools during the 1970s and 80s (see photo above). Under Coach Don Randall, Santa Barbara High’s Vaune Kadlubek played for the boy’s varsity team during the mid-1970s and later starred at 2 meters for the U.S. Women’s National Team. Kadlubek medaled in the FINA Cup and World Championships and was one of the top 2-meter players ever. She later coached the U.S. National team. More importantly, Kadlubek played a pivotal role in establishing Women’s Water Polo as an official NCAA sport.
Pete Snyder coached the first women’s club at UCSB in 1978. The program matured under Scott Porter during the early 1980s when he took Santa Barbara’s first teams to the Women’s Senior Nationals. Porter led the team to a national collegiate championship in 1985. Rob Locke took over the UCSB club program during the late 1980s and led the Gauchos to collegiate championships in 1987 and 1989. Santa Barbara teams placed in the top four at the Women’s Senior Nationals led by Cathy Neushul in 1992, Brian Roth in 2000, and Mark Walsh in 2005. SBWPF produced a number of key National Team Members including Shari Baird, Margot Miranda, and Jocelyn Wilkie.
In 2000, Heather Moody, a former SBWPF player, represented the U.S.A. Women’s Water Polo in Australia–the Olympic inauguration—and won a silver medal. Moody also captained the 2004 U.S.A Women’s team that won a bronze medal at the Athens Olympics. Thalia Munro, a standout at Santa Barbara High and All-American at UCLA joined her on the bronze medal team.
After the introduction of Women’s Water Polo as an NCAA sport in 1996, girl’s high school and club water polo exploded throughout California. Mark Walsh, head coach at Santa Barbara High, was among the first to harness the potential of girls water polo in the Southland. Walsh built a nationally recognized program at SBHS and led SBWPF teams to top ten finishes at the J.O.’s. In 2002, Walsh led the Santa Barbara Paradise to an 18 and under girl’s title. In 2005 Walsh led SBWPF’s women’s team to a second place finish in the 20 and under Women’s National Championship. Walsh garnered SBWPF’s first Senior National medal in 2008 beating Stanford for the bronze.
Youth water polo (12 and under) had a brief start during the early 1970s when Rick Rowland and Phil Bowen taught fundamental water polo skills to novice swimmers. During the late 1990s, Brian Roth and Joe O’Brien introduced a year-round youth program. In 2000, SBWPF supported a second youth program founded by Angie Seto, Kristen Slater, Beth Tompkins, and Cathy Schrier, former members of the UCSB Women’s Water Polo team.
SBWPC 12 and under teams have since placed in the top ten at consecutive Junior Olympics. In 2005, the SBWPC girls coached by Lance Schroeder and Cathy Neushul won the 12 and under championship at the San Diego County Cup. This same team went on to win the club’s first 12 girls National Championship at the 2005 Junior Olympics. In 2006, the 12 and under girls team coached by Allen Lorentzen and Peter Neushul successfully defended SBWPC’s National Championship. SBWPC is the first club to win consecutive titles in 12 and under girl’s water polo. The team took silver in 2007 in a shootout with Commerce. Al Lorentzen’s team is highly ranked in 2008 winning a gold at the San Diego County Cup.
In 2005, the SBWPC’s 14 and under girl’s qualified for the Speedo Cup and won a bronze medal in St. Louis Missouri. In 2006, SBWPC’s girls led by Cathy Neushul and Lance Schroeder won the club’s first 14 and under National Championship by beating Diablo of Northern California. The team won gold again in 2007 with a number of decisive wins, including a 7-1 defeat of Laguna Beach in the championship game.
The Water Polo Junior Olympics are an annual competition that determines the nation’s best team in the 12, 14, 16, and 18 year old age groups for both boys and girls. Teams travel from as far away as Seattle, New York, Florida, and Hawaii to attend. In 2006 100 clubs entered over 300 different teams.
In 2006, SBWPC won three out of eight possible titles in boys and girls water polo to conclude the most successful year in club history. In 2007, SBWPC won two of eight with one silver. Based on this depth and on results, it is clear the SBWPC is reaching elite status in national water polo. We look forward to improving on this record at the upcoming 2008 Junior Olympics and at the Men’s and Women’s senior nationals.