Water Polo Notes from Italy: Ashleigh Johnson Arrives in Catania

December 16, 2017; Santa Margarita Catholic High School, Santa Margarita, California, USA; Waterpolo: USA Water Polo Exhibition Series: USA vs Netherlands; USA Goalkeeper Ashleigh Johnson with a savePhoto credit: Catharyn Hayne- KLC fotos
Ashleigh Johnson in action last month. Photo Courtesy: Catharyn Hayne/USA Water Polo

Editor’s Note: The following submission is from an Italian journalist eager to inform American audiences about the excitement surrounding Ashleigh Johnson’s arrival in Catania, Italy to join the women’s water polo club at the Orizzonte Catania Sports Association. The club competes in the Serie A1, the top professional women’s league in Italy.

One cultural note: the Befana is an old woman who delivers gifts to children throughout Italy on the eve of the Catholic Feast of the Epiphany on January 6th.

The ambition of AS Orizzonte Catania — “dell’Orizzonte” — is to return to the “Horizon.” The hope is that the arrival of Ashleigh Johnson will defend the goal posts of the most successful club in Italy.

AS_Orizzonte

Which is a point of great strength, just like when the club in Catania laid down the law in the 1990’s: Italian titles from 1991 to 2005 always and only with Christiana Conti to defend the door. And no doubt it is a major purchase; necessary to even hope to achieve success in Europe.

conti_JAN17

Christiana Conti. Photo Courtesy: Orizzonte Catania Sports Association

Ashleigh is expected in Catania with the “Befana”, on January 5, but will not play until the first day of the championship of the season, with the Euro League debut on January 19. While the championship regulation provides that foreign athletes can “change” only at the beginning of the second round, she will be able to play right away having not played for other clubs.

Her guided training on the bench by [head coach] Martina Miceli will be until February 17, with only the young Flavia Schillaci as goalkeeper since Australian Gabriela Palm, as agreed, has returned to her homeland.

“[Johnson] is a great athlete,” said Tania Di Mario, team manager of the Catania club. “But we must not give her all this responsibility, although the team will be better with her.

“We hope that everything goes in the best possible way.”

So for a month she will train with her friends before her official debut in the league.

After the break, the star of her national team — number “1” with the Olympic gold around her neck — Ashleigh will get back in the pool with her new companions.

With reporting by Michael Randazzo