Water Polo Update

By Eric Velazquez, USA Waterpolo

Dynamic Duo Guarding Goal
As the clock ticks away to the first game of the inaugural Olympic women’s water polo tournament, there is a steady stream of attention beginning to swirl around the U.S. goalkeeper situation.

What was once a one-woman job, has been given a new dynamic. While most other teams, including the other five in the Olympic pool, will delegate their goalkeeping duties to one person for the duration of the tournament, Team USA will stagger a pair of athletes in the net. Bernie Orwig and Nicolle Payne will split time in goal for the Red, White, and Blue in Sydney, the only question remaining being who will take which games.

USA coach Guy Baker sees this as an advantage from a preparation standpoint.

“Usually, we like to take things one game at a time, and when you get in the pool in competition, you’re usually focused on that team,” he said. “This way, we’ll have at least one person on the team that will be thinking about the game ahead.”

The switch-off scenario enables Orwig and Payne to look ahead to their next time out, spending extra time on scouting reports and shooters’ tendencies. In school, it was always easier to study for one test at a time…this will be no different.

Baker’s “dynamic duo” will also be much more rested for each trip into the cage.

“The goalkeeper position is so physically and mentally draining,” he said. “With an extra day’s rest, both Bernie and Nicolle will be a little more fresh, giving us that much more of an advantage.”

Most coaches, including Baker, are traditionally monogamous to the “one-goalkeeper” scheme. But, he admits, these two athletes precipitate the exception to the rule.

“The fact of the matter is that they’re both playing great right now,” he said. “They’re both doing tremendous in goal and I have the greatest faith in each of them that they’ll go out there and do a great job for us.”

Orwig was the 1999 Collegiate Player of the Year for USC, and Payne was named as the most outstanding goalkeeper for the Holiday Cup back in July.

And the Rocket’s Red Glare…
While most thought that the dress rehearsal for the Opening Ceremonies went off without a hitch, those that were there, especially those who work at the
village fire department, knew better.

Some of the fireworks display ended up landing on some nearby dry grass, causing a short and controlled grass fire. Damage was minimal and no one was injured. But the short-lived fire did produce a nice “red glare” in the village for spectators.

The Bombs Bursting in Air…
Another drawback of a full dress rehearsal was that it fed on the paranoia of the Olympic Village inhabitants, their minds still fresh with visions of
the Atlanta terrorist bombing in 1996.

Most people, including several members of the U.S. women’s water polo team, sprung from their beds, convinced that psycho bombers were on the rampage
again. But Julie Swail is not “most people.” An Orange County native who grew up in the shadows of Disneyland, Swail is well accustomed to the nightly echo of fireworks in her backyard.

“I live upstairs next to a window, so when I heard the fireworks, I got up to watch,” she said. “But everyone else freaked out, thinking that people were bombing the Olympic Village.”

Ahh, the joys of the Olympic experience.

Men’s Notes
–The USA men’s water polo team will arrive in Sydney on September 12, and will begin training on September 13, fresh off of three straight wins over the Romanian national team in California. For the series the U.S. outscored Romania 35-21, scoring near half of that in one game at a 17-10 offensive explosion at El Toro High School on August 31.
–Team USA, who had been less than healthy over the last few months, will be coming to Sydney at full strength.

The Skinny on Sydney

And I thought Southern California traffic was bad…

Sydney roads have been ripped up and rebuilt to accommodate the steadily growing volume of traffic for the Olympic Games. New “Olympic lanes” have been established to facilitate accredited buses and cars on their commutes, with violators of the rule getting maximum fines of $2200. Staying out of the lanes? I would have a hard enough time driving on the correct side of the road. New lanes would be the least of my worries.

But the main mode of transport for those outside the village is the train, which is not so bad, provided that you got a 1600 on your SAT test. With stops every hundred yards or so, figuring out which train to take or switch to is not an easy task. The schedules, and there are several of them, will also be revamped, active September 15th, to handle the increased traffic
towards Olympic Park.

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