Water Polo Standout Alys Williams on Going for Gold

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Photo Credit: Twitter, @usawp

 By Rachel Andersen, Swimming World College Intern.

On August 10, the final whistle blew for the 2019 Pan American Games. Much to the delight of the USA Women’s National Team, they once again proved their mettle on the international stage. After six competitive games and with gold encircling their necks yet again, the American women are one step closer to their Olympic dreams.

Swimming World caught up with team member Alys Williams for an inside scoop on her hopeful path to Tokyo 2020. Williams scored 12 goals in the tournament, cementing the US squad’s dominance as they make their way to the summer Olympics. However, Olympic dreams for Williams didn’t start in the pools of Lima, Peru. They started in southern California.

UCLA Athletics - UCLA Women's Water Polo versus the Stanford Cardinal, 2017 MPSF Championship game, Spieker Aquatic Center, UCLA, Los Angeles, CA. April 30th, 2017 Copyright Don Liebig/ASUCLA 170430_WWP_093.NEF

UCLA Women’s Water Polo versus the Stanford Cardinal, 2017. Photo Courtesy: Don Liebig

Building a Champion

Williams says her dreams started back home. “I started when I was 8 years old. My Dad played in a college and he coached a club in Newport Beach, so my sisters and I all joined when we were old enough. I’ve played for 17 years!” 

Regardless of which team Williams competed for, she has consistently brought her squad to the highest level. “I played for Newport Beach Water Polo from 8 years old to 14 years old. I played in high school at Edison High School in Huntington Beach and also joined Huntington Beach Water Polo for 16U and 18U. When I graduated from Edison, I went to play for UCLA.”

While at UCLA, Williams was not only invited to train with the National Team, but she also helped lead UCLA to their closest grab at the NCAA championships. UCLA finished in second place with an 8-7 nail-biter against Stanford, where Williams scored three goals. While this was a stinging disappointment, she did not hang up her cap after college. “After graduation, I joined the New York Athletic Club while continuing my career with the National Team.”

Road to Gold

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Alys snapping a selfie with the USA Team after winning the 2019 Super Final. Photo Courtesy: @alyswilliams12 on Twitter

Williams credits her position on the National Team to the Olympic Development Program. “My journey to the National Team began with my local Zone team tryouts. I played with SoPac in the ODP (Olympic Development Program) championships and was invited to train with the youth team during my second year of SoPac,” she explains.

From there, her career seemed to follow a predictable pattern – always being invited to the next step up. “From then, I travelled to a couple tournaments with the youth team and got invited to train with the junior team. After a year with the junior team and a year in college, I was invited to join a few trainings with the senior team. I credit a lot of my preparation to the ODP system and the opportunities it provides young athletes to travel internationally and play athletes from other countries. It gave me a ton of inspiration, and introduced the difficulty of international competition early on.”

Despite her strong background, Williams didn’t have an easy road to international success.

I would say the two most difficult things I had to overcome while transitioning into international competition was the pace of play and the physicality. I thought I would be prepared to join the senior team after a year in college, but these girls played at a whole new pace that was much faster than I was used to. It forces you to always stay on your toes so you can keep up! Additionally, the physicality of international play was much greater than I was used to, and that was more of a mental adjustment than anything else.” -Alys Williams

22-07-2019: WK waterpolo: USA v Greece: Gwangju #12 WILLIAMS Alys (USA) Gwangju South Korea 22/07/2019 Waterpolo W35 USA - GRE 18th FINA World Aquatics Championships Nambu University Grounds Orange Pictures / Deepbluemedia / Insidefoto

Alys Williams looks to pass the ball. Photo Courtesy: Orange Pictures

Fighting For the USA

Despite the challenges, Williams finds joy and meaning among Team USA. “This process is filled with so many peaks and valleys, and I think it is important for everyone to understand that the tough times make the good times that much sweeter. If I had to pick one recent moment as my favorite, it would probably be qualifying for the Olympics at World League Super Final. It was very special to be a part of that team and achieve that goal together!”

A key trait of many high-performing athletes is the unquenchable desire to reach for big goals, and Williams does this with character and gratitude.

“Representing the USA on the senior team has been a dream of mine since my first zone team tryout. Making a roster is something we can never take for granted, and I have be so thankful for every opportunity I have had thus far. I look forward to continuing to work hard in order to hopefully keep filling this dream I still have to represent our country in further competitions!” -Alys Williams

While the US team qualified for the Olympics during the 2019 World League Super Final, the fight isn’t over for Williams. Unlike previous years where the team could bring a roster of 13 players to the Games, the roster must be further cut down to 11 this year. While this change means Williams’ Olympic team spot isn’t final, we can all continue to cheer her on as she fights to make her dreams golden.

-All commentaries are the opinion of the author. This article does not necessarily reflect the views of Swimming World Magazine nor its staff.

1 comment

  1. avatar
    Michelle

    Go Alys!

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