courtesy of United States Water Polo, Inc.
–Head Coach Guy Baker and Company Heading into History-
Long Beach, CA-When the USA Women's National Water Polo team packs up for the Summer Games in Sydney this June, they'll be getting ready for a lot more than just a plane ride.
The women's second-place finish at the Olympic Qualification Tournament last month not only earned them a ticket to Australia, but a place in the
annals of history.
While men's water polo stands as the oldest team sport in the Olympics today, 2000 will mark the first year of women's competition. Six teams, including Canada, Australia, Khazikstan, Russia, theNetherlands, and Team USA, will usher in a new era of women's water polo, which, to this point has found its highest achievement in the World Championships, held every four years since 1978.
Team USA's roster, which is currently 14 deep, features a diversity of players, ranging in age from 19 to 39, and includes players from four different states.
Maureen O'Toole, 39, has played in every women's water polo World Championship since 1978 and is glad to finally be getting her shot at Olympic gold.
“This will be the culmination of a 20-plus year career for me,” she said. “This is what it's all about, and this is why we've all worked so hard.”
Ericka Lorenz, a 5-11 driver from San Diego, California, is the team's youngest player at 19, and feels optimistic, not only about the team's
chances, but about the future of women's water polo.
“We're here now and we're ready to play,” she said. “And I think that women's water polo in the USA is beginning to boom, so I know that the future definitely holds good things.”
The team's accomplishments, while vital to women's athletics in the U.S. in general, will no doubt cause a stir in California, hometown to all but three of Coach Guy “Baker's Dozen” and site of both the men's and women's workout facility.
The USA Water Polo National Aquatic Center at the Joint Forces Training Base in Los Alamitos,California, will serve as the venue for both teams as they prepare for Sydney.
With the tables set and the water ready, Baker feels that all they need to do now is enjoy the ride.
“This team will leave a legacy for generations to come,” he said. “Don't get me wrong, we are going there and giving our all for getting the gold.
But with all that this team has worked for and accomplished, they will always be remembered, regardless of the outcome.”
Fans can catch a preview of Olympic competition at the Women's Holiday Cup, which is being held at the Water Polo National Aquatic Center in Los Alamitos, July 4-9. All six Sydney-bound women's teams will be featured in the six-day tourney. For ticket and schedule information, call (562) 430-1073 or log on to http://www.holidaycup.com