LOS ALAMITOS, Calif., October 23. THE U.S. men’s water polo team, ranked No. 6 in the world, will play host to Mladost, the top club team from Croatia, for three games this weekend (Oct. 24-25, 27) at three separate Southern California venues. The two teams will conduct joint training throughout the week at the USA Water Polo National Aquatic Center in Los Alamitos (Calif.).
Mladost, which features several players from the Croatian National Team, is one of Europe’s most successful clubs. Guided by former Croatian youth National Team head coach Milorad Damjanic, Mladost is a seven-time winner of the European Cup of Champions and was the Croatian champion in 2003.
“This is a very good team and we are happy to be training with them and playing against them,” said Croatian-born U.S. head coach Ratko Rudic. “We’ve started training very hard again, so getting these games in will break that monotony up a little bit and get the players excited.”
The Mladost roster is dotted with some of Croatia’s top talent including National Teamers Miro Kacic, Percinic Dalibor, Tomislav Primorac, and Hrvoje Joljanin. Russian standout Revaz Tchomakhidze is also a key player with Mladost.
This will be Team USA’s first international competition since defeating Serbia and Montenegro in August to take bronze at the 2003 FINA World League Superfinal. Earlier this summer, the U.S. qualified for the 2004 Olympics by going undefeated to take gold at the Pan American Games.
On Friday (October 24), the U.S. will take on Mladost in an 8:00 p.m. game at Corona del Mar High School in Newport Beach. The following night (October 25), the action will shift to Capistrano Valley High School in Mission Viejo, where the two teams will take a 7:00 p.m. opening sprint. The U.S. and Mladost will clash in a series finale on Monday (October 27) night at 6:00 p.m. at Belmont Plaza in Long Beach.
“Right now, our players are so motivated,” said Rudic. “They are working so hard and it makes for such a great atmosphere. I am very satisfied with how things are going with this team right now. They are a very fun team to watch and to coach.”
Among those lacing up caps for the U.S. against Mladost will be two-time Olympian and team captain Wolf Wigo (New York, NY/Stanford/New York Athletic Club/Ethnikos Piraeus) and 2000 Olympian center Ryan Bailey (Long Beach, CA/UC Irvine/Newport Water Polo/JUG Dubrovnik).
Also representing Team USA will be former UCLA stars Brandon Brooks (Honolulu, HI/UCLA) and Adam Wright (Seal Beach, CA/UCLA/New York Athletic Club), UC Irvine alums Dan Klatt (Fresno, CA/UC Irvine/Newport Water Polo), Jeff Powers (San Luis Obispo, CA/UC Irvine/Newport Water Polo), Omar Amr (Fullerton, CA/UC Irvine/Newport Water Polo), and Genai Kerr (Imperial Beach, CA/UC Irvine/Newport Water Polo), Pepperdine formers Merrill Moses (Rancho Palos Verdes, CA/Pepperdine/New York Athletic Club) and Larry Felix (Anaheim, CA/Pepperdine, CA/Los Angeles Water Polo). Long Beach State’s Chris Segesman (Santa Barbara, CA/Cal State Long Beach/Los Angeles Water Polo), Stanford grad Layne Beaubien (Coronado, CA/Stanford/Olympic Club/Halkida, Crete), and former Cal Berkeley lefty Spencer Dornin (Laguna Beach, CA/Cal Berkeley/Olympic Club).
Admission for the games against Mladost will be $5.00 for adults and $3.00 for students.
Team USA – Mladost Exhibition Series
Friday, October 24 8:00 p.m. Corona del Mar High School, Newport Beach, CA
Saturday, October 25 7:00 p.m. Capistrano Valley High School, Mission Viejo, CA
Sunday, October 26 REST DAY
Monday, October 27 6:00 p.m. Belmont Plaza, Long Beach, CA
Admission: $5.00 for adults, $3.00 for students