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Water polo at Foster

Players compete in a match at Foster Reservoir during the 2013 Nike Open Water Tournament. (Mark Ylen/Democrat-Herald file photo)

More than 30 boys and girls water polo teams will descend upon Foster Lake next week as Willamette Valley Water Polo hosts the third annual Nike Open Water Tournament.

In addition to squads from around the Northwest, two from Canada, two from New Mexico and several from California will be competing in 18-and-under and 16-and-under male and female divisions in bracket-style tournament play, which runs Monday through Wednesday.

“It’s very competitive,” Willamette Valley Water Polo coach Stephen Sessa said. “We’re bringing teams in from California, which is the premier place for water polo. Davis water polo, Modesto water polo, American River water polo, Marin water polo … these are some of the premier programs in the United States. This is not competition we see at a normal tournament.”

Players from the Albany and Salem areas — including West Albany 2013 All-State selections Gabe DeSimone, Logan Smith and Austin Barton — help make up the Willamette Valley Water Polo rosters.

Several high profile guests and coaches from the water polo world will be on hand throughout the course of the three-day tournament to help highlight the festivities.

“On Tuesday, we will be having Swim Nike rep Rich Martinez, a 2008 Olympian,” indicated Sessa. “Also at the tournament is Allison Knoedler, the head coach at Lake Oswego Water Polo Association and a 2008 Olympian and silver medalist. Heather Moody will be coaching the American River girls programs. Heather was a 2012 coach for the women’s gold medal team in London. So yeah, this will be some high-level competition.”

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Teams will compete in the waters of Foster Reservoir. Away from the confines of an indoor or even outdoor pool, the natural elements will present a unique challenge for the players and a rare viewing opportunity for spectators.

“It’s a great opportunity to learn the sport and to see it in a great environment,” he said. “Oregon teams don’t get to play outdoors too often. It’s 100 percent in the lake. There are even boats that will affect the games with their wakes. And, we will even have a drone fly over taking some video footage of it all.”

Temperatures are expected to reach the mid-90s at times next week, so perhaps a dip in the lake isn’t such a bad idea. Willamette Valley Water Polo’s 18-and-under girls team will kick off the tournament with a match at 11 a.m. on Monday; their 18-and-under boys team will commence bracket play at 1:30 p.m.; and their 16-and-under boys and girls squads begin at noon and 3:30 p.m., respectively, that afternoon.

Championship matches are scheduled to be held Wednesday afternoon beginning at 1:00 p.m.

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