As U.S. Women’s Water Polo Seeks Another Gold, Change is Part of the Game

Jordan Raney

As U.S. Women’s Water Polo Seeks Another Gold, Change is Part of the Game

A quick scan of the U.S. Olympic Women’s Water Polo Team roster for the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris is disorienting. Not only is Makenzie Fischer not among the final group announced last week; her sister Aria is not listed either. Melissa Seidemann announced in 2023 that she was done (three golds!) but what happened to Stephania Haralabidis and Paige Hauschild? They were so young; you’d have thought the former Trojans would be there for another Olympic run—especially this one, a possible fourth straight gold.

At least there’s a Neushul, but Ryann? Wasn’t she just starting at Stanford when Jamie and Kiley were playing?

No Dan Klatt?!!!

If the only constant in life is change, then change is what’s happened to Adam Krikorian’s roster as he looks to steer his team to an historic—for water polo—Olympic finish. It might be suggested that no matter who Krikorian takes on a trip to the City of Lights, they will be successful. His record as US national team coach—three Olympics: London in 2012, Rio in 2016, Tokyo in 2021—has been golden. But as everyone knows, no dynasty lasts forever. Shaking up his team, no matter how successful, is perhaps an excellent strategy for unprecedented success in Paris against a pack of rivals nipping at the Americans’ heels.

That and making sure that 2020 back-up goalie Amanda Longan, double gold medalists Rachel Fattal, Kaleigh Gilchrist, Ashleigh Johnson, and Maddie Musselman and the captain, Maggie Steffens are booked for the trip.

Of course, Steffens. In the variable rosters the past 12 years—27 women have suited up for Krikorian over four Olympics—only “The Captain” has been on every Krikorian-coached team. Now she has a chance to lead her team to a fourth Olympic win, surpassing the gold standard of the great Hungarian men’s squads earlier this century (2000, 2004, 2008).

But players with Olympic experience account for less than half the Paris roster; with seven first time Olympians—including a field player from the East for the first time since Alison Gregorkia in 2008—this year’s squad has the least holdovers from previous Olympic competition since 2016. As the Americans chase yet another gold, even with their experienced core, they are at a potential disadvantage against top rivals Hungary, Italy and Spain whose rosters are stocked with veteran polo players, the majority of whom have years of professional experience in Europe.

Of the newcomers, Jordan Raney may be most deserving. After missing out on the previous two Olympics—in 2021 she was the final cut from the squad that was selected to the Tokyo Games—the 27 year-old Raney is deserving to finally punch an Olympic ticket. The experienced defender is balanced by phenom Emily Ausmus; just 18 years old, Ausmus, who has been on US national teams since she was 12, skipped her freshman year at USC to try out for an Olympic spot. It’s a gambit that’s paid off handsomely, and one essential to future American success.

Ryann Neushul is another youngster looking for a significant life experience; she knows first-hand what it takes to make an Olympic roster, having tried out for the 2020 Tokyo Games. That and the fact that older sisters Kiley (2016) and Jamie (2020) have already played for Olympic hardware wearing the US stars and bars.

Neushul’s Stanford teammates Jenna Flynn and Jewel Roemer also made the cut, as did Jovana Sekulic, another collegiate star who skipped her senior year at Princeton—Ivy league schools do not red-shirt athletes—for the chance at Olympic glory. This is not to overlook Tara Prentice, a star at UC Irvine while playing for former Olympic team assistant coach Klatt (three gold—2012, 2016, 2020). Prentice has also been around the USNT program since 2020 but blocked by the Fischers, Seidelman, Jamie Neushul and others. Now it’s her time in the Olympic spotlight.

Let’s hope it’s a golden moment.

US Women’s National Water Polo Team Roster for 2024 Olympic Games in Paris:
Ashleigh Johnson (Miami, FL/Princeton/NYAC)
Maddie Musselman (Newport Beach, CA/UCLA/NYAC)
Tara Prentice (Temecula, CA/UC Irvine/NYAC
Rachel Fattal (Seal Beach, CA/UCLA/NYAC)
Jenna Flynn (San Jose, CA/Stanford/NYAC)
Maggie Steffens (Danville, CA/Stanford/NYAC)
Jordan Raney (Manhattan Beach, CA/Stanford/NYAC)
Ryann Neushul (Goleta, CA/Stanford/NYAC)
Jewel Roemer (Martinez, CA/Stanford/680 Water Polo)
Kaleigh Gilchrist (Newport Beach, CA/USC/NYAC)
Emily Ausmus (Riverside, CA/USC/NYAC)
Jovana Sekulic (Haverford, PA & Belgrade, Serbia/Princeton/NYAC)
Amanda Longan (Moorpark, CA/USC/NYAC)
Head Coach: Adam Krikorian
Assistant Coaches: Molly Cahill and Chris Oeding

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