Preparing for Success: What to Expect from U.S. Women’s Water Polo in London

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Feature by Shoshanna Rutemiller

PHOENIX, Arizona, July 25. COACH Adam Krikorian knows that the secret to molding a top team is having a common vision. That's why the only thing the U.S. women's water polo team envisions is a string of successful matches in London.

Krikorian took over as head of the women's National Team in March of 2009, less than a year after the women took home silver at the Beijing 2008 Olympics. Team USA boasts a medal in every Olympics women's polo was offered, dating to Sydney 2000. They are the only nation with this achievement.

Despite previous accolades, Krikorian is hesitant to compare previous teams to his current athletes in London.

“We hear a lot of comparisons to previous teams that have represented the USA in the Olympic Games,” says Krikorian, “But the first thing everyone needs to understand is that every Olympic Team travels through a different journey and forms its own identity.”

The women's team has a mix of experience amongst its players. London is team captain Brenda Villa's fourth consecutive Olympics, along with teammate Heather Petri. Of the thirteen team members, eight are former Olympians. These veteran players are paired with a handful of star collegiate athletes making their first Olympic appearances.

“I have been impressed with the progress in maturity this team has made over the last two years,” Krikorian said. “The beauty of a team sport and specifically from a coach's perspective is attempting to balance all of those different personalities.”

In June, Team USA had a series sweep at the FINA World League Super Finals, winning gold. Despite consistently dominating in competitions, the women are currently ranked sixth in the world. This is chalked up to an unfortunate sixth-place finish at the 2011 FINA World Championships in Shanghai. However, of the eight countries sending teams to London, it would be foolish to count any out of medal contention.

“This year's eight-team field has more parity than ever before,” Krikorian said. “Most would say that at least seven teams, maybe all eight, have the ability to reach the top of the podium.”

The international competition is so stiff that the Netherlands, Gold medalists in Beijing 2008, failed to qualify for London. Greece, ranked first in the world as of August 2011, also failed to qualify.

Nevertheless, the U.S. has a few reasons to be confident with their opening match against Hungary in London. Four, in fact. The women swept Hungary in four Olympic tune-up matches earlier this month.

“They are our opening game at the Olympics (on July 30),” said defender Elsie Windes. “They are always an offensive threat so it was great getting four wins against them.”

Only the first three match-ups are set in London before the teams are narrowed down in the prelims, quarterfinals, semifinals and finals. After Hungary, the US is set to compete against Spain on August 1st and China on the 3rd. Medals will be awarded on August 9th.

When asked what can be expected from Team USA at the Olympics, Windes enthusiastically replied:

“You can expect us to go out there and lay it all on the line. We are so pumped that it is finally here and can't wait to go out there and represent our country!!!”

Click here to view the Olympic Water Polo competition schedule.

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