Women’s Water Polo Festival Draft Held; Tournament Rosters Set

LOS ALAMITOS, CA, October 25. THE momentum continued toward the 3rd Annual Speedo Top 40 Festival last week, with U.S. women’s head coach Guy Baker announcing the rosters for the four teams slated to compete in the three-day event early next month (Nov. 5-7) at the USA Water Polo National Aquatic Center in Los Alamitos, Calif.

The tournament will feature the U.S. women’s Junior National Team and three other teams that were drafted. All teams will be named after a suit provided by Speedo, the tournament’s title sponsor.

The Top 40 Festival, started in 2002, brings together dozens of elite female water polo players for a three-day event, jam packed with high-level competition, music, spectator contests, silent auctions and much more. Last year’s tournament featured the whole of the World Champion U.S. women’s team, all 13 of them dispersed among four Top 40 teams.

Baker, the only coach to guide his teams to medals in both Olympics to feature women’s water polo, is excited to get the Junior National Team – who will be playing in the tournament as Team Aster – in the water against some good competition. The three teams they will be up against – Zap, Livewire and Graffiti — will be guided by youth-level (18-under) zone coaches still to be announced.

All of the drafted teams present a strong mix of senior and youth National Team and collegiate players. 2004 Olympic bronze medalists Kelly Rulon (San Diego, CA/UCLA) and Jackie Frank (Long Beach, CA) will lead Team Graffiti, bronze medal winner Natalie Golda (La Habra, CA/UCLA) will team up with 2004 Peter J. Cutino award winner Moriah van Norman (San Diego, CA/USC) on Team Livewire and Team Zap will be led by Long Beach State attacker Cassie Azevedo (Long Beach, CA/Long Beach State) and another 2004 bronze medalist in playmaker Thalia Munro (Santa Barbara, CA/UCLA).

“I believe all three drafted teams will be very competitive,” said Baker. “There a lot of new faces to go along with some familiar ones. It should be interesting to see how soon the teams can blend together and I am excited to see how this year's Top 40 plays out. It is my goal that all three teams will give our junior team very difficult games.”

The games will also serve as a tool for Baker and his staff to evaluate players as they look ahead to their own roster selections for the 2005 World Championships in Canada and beyond.

“This is a good way for us to check in with some players to see where we are with things,” said Baker. “And maybe to get a look at some people we haven’t had the chance to look at as much before.”

The Junior Circuit
The No. 2 ranked U.S. junior women’s squad, which will take its full squad of 14 athletes against the other three teams of 11, will headline the field of four teams. The junior team coaching staff will be using this tournament not only as a competitive tune-up, but as an evaluation tool as it moves closer to the selection of its final roster for the 2005 FINA Junior World Championships in Perth, Australia, January 24-30.

“This year's Top 40 will be extremely beneficial for the junior team because we will be playing as our own team, not a mixed team,” said U.S. junior team head coach Kyle Utsumi. “At that point, we will have 12 field players and must narrow the team down to the 11 who will compete in Perth. We are carrying 18 players right now and will go to 14 in late October. It is a strong group with competition at all positions.”

Olympians Abound
In the mix with the 44 athletes that will be competing that weekend are 2004 Olympic bronze medalists Natalie Golda (La Habra, CA/UCLA/New York AC), Kelly Rulon (San Diego, CA/UCLA) and Thalia Munro (Santa Barbara, CA/UCLA), Heather Moody (Green River, WY/San Diego State/New York AC), Nicolle Payne (Cerritos, CA/UCLA/New York AC) and Jackie Frank (Long Beach, CA/Stanford). Three athletes—Moody, Payne and Gubba Sheehy—competed on the silver medal-winning 2000 Olympic Team, with all three slated to play for New York for the open tournament.

Open Tournament
The third installment of this growing tournament will feature yet another new twist: a 12-team, 24-game girls open tournament that will run in conjunction with the Top 40 tournament games. The teams were accepted on a first-come, first-serve basis and can carry up to 15 athletes. The goal is to give more athletes exposure to the National Team environment while setting the games in a festival-type atmosphere.

“We want the Top 40 Festival to keep growing,” said Baker. “The idea is to make it a fun event for people to come to where they can see some great water polo and have a great time doing it.”

Open Tournament – Teams and Brackets
Group A Group B Group C Group D
New York AC San Diego Shores SoCal Golden West
TRAP Corona del Mar (CdM) Commerce Coronado
CHAWP Riverside KAI Polo Los Angeles WPC

Carnival Corner
Among the activities planned for the weekend are a radar gun station, a weight room circuit, some children’s entertainment and a dunk-tank, where fans will get the opportunity to put Baker and other Olympic coaches and players in the drink.

“If people want to pay more money for us to take the cage down for their throw, that’s fine,” said a good-humored Baker, suspecting he’ll be a pretty popular victim in the protective tank. “They’ll just have to back up a little bit.”

Gates will open one hour prior to the first game everyday, with festival hours set at 3:00-5:30 p.m. on Friday and 1:00-5:00 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

For the tournament, each team will be named after a particular Speedo swimsuit. Each team’s goalkeeper will wear her team’s namesake suit during competition for the duration of the tournament. For more information on Speedo or its products, visit them on the web at www.speedousa.com.

Tournament Rosters
Team Graffiti Team Livewire Team Zap Team Aster (U.S. Juniors)*
Kelly Rulon Scotti Shafer Cassie Azevedo Elsie Windes
Jaqueline Gauthier Krista Peterson Shana Welch Erika Figge
Jenna Murphy Katie Rulon Anne Belden Brittany Hayes
Jennifer D'Anna Moriah van Norman Drue Wawrzynski Molly Cahill
Kristina Kunkel Grace Reynolds Beth Novick Gabbie Domanic
Stacia Peterson Natalie Golda Thalia Munro Tanya Gandy
Lauren Wenger Hanna Luber Kelty Luber Katie Hansen
Lauren Heineck Breana Allison Jamie Hipp Lauren Silver
Jackie Frank Betsey Armstrong Lauren Dennis Jillian Kraus
Brittany Fullen Jessica Goldner Cassie Azevedo Cami Craig
Kacy Kunkel
Christina Hewko
Marina Mayer
Aimee Stachowski
Katie Flanagan
Alison Gregorka
Emily Feher
Meridith McColl
* Roster to be narrowed to 14 players on October 24. The four players not selected to Junior Team roster will be drafted onto one of the remaining three teams.

Ticket Prices
Tickets for the 2004 Speedo Top 40 Festival will only be available at the door.

General Admission All-Session Pass (3 days) Per Day Pass
Adults $25.00 $10.00
Students $15.00 $7.00

Fans will also be able to purchase a festival package admission, which will include one festival games and activities card and a bingo card. Additional festival cards and bingo cards can be purchased for $5.00 each.

Festival Package All-Session Pass (3 days)
Adults $30.00
Students $20.00

The Information Superhighway
For more information on the Top 40 Festival or the open tournament, contact the Women’s Programs Office at 562-799-8506

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