From www.uswp.org – COLORADO SPRINGS, CO – United States Water Polo, Inc. announced the appointment of Guy Baker as the head coach of the USA Women’s National Water Polo Team. His appointment is effective immediately and will run through December of 2000.
Baker, 37, is currently the head men’s and women’s water polo coach at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA). Under his leadership, UCLA became the first water polo program to win men’s and women’s national championships in the same academic year, a feat his Bruins accomplished two years in a row (men’s 1995, women’s 1996 and men’s 1996 and women’s 1997). In addition to his collegiate coaching endeavors, Baker was an assistant coach for the USA Men’s Olympic Team in 1992 and more recently served as an assistant coach of the 1997 and 1998 USA Men’s National Teams.
“We have chosen Guy Baker to lead our Women’s National Team because of all the candidates he had the best credentials to get our team qualified for the Olympic Games and to win the gold medal in Sydney,” said Megan Hernandez, Chair of USA Water Polo’s Women’s International Committee.
“Unlike the men’s team we don’t have the luxury of focusing on the Olympics,” Baker said. “Our first priority is simply to get qualified.”
While the USA men’s team, the 1997 FINA World Cup champion, is virtually assured of a place in the 12 team Sydney Olympic Games men’s tournament, the USA women’s team is currently ranked eighth in the world. The 2000 Olympic women’s tournament will have only six teams, including the host, Australia. The first opportunity for the women to qualify for Sydney will come in June of 1999 at the next FINA World Cup, in Winnipeg, Canada.
“Athletically, we have the talent to beat any team in the world,” Baker said. “But with a few exceptions we are younger and have less international experience than our opponents. Our challenge is to select the right combination of players, accelerate their learning curve and have them tactically, physically and mentally ready to compete in 16 months. After that we’ll worry about the Olympics.”