USA Water Polo Hall Of Fame Class Of 2014 To Be Inducted April 5

The USA Water Polo Hall of Fame, a collection of excellence in the sport of water polo, returns in 2014 to induct four deserving individuals in conjunction with the USAWP National Awards Dinner. Legendary UC-Irvine Men’s Water Polo Coach Edward Newland, Southern California scholastic coaching icon Jim Sprague, water polo referee extraordinaire Andy Takata, and Women’s National Team pioneer Sandy Vessey-Schneider will be honored at a benefit celebration April 5 at the Hotel Irvine Jamboree Center in Irvine, California.

Tickets are on sale now starting at a pre-sale price of $125 with a VIP ticket including parking, a hosted cocktail reception, and priority seating beginning at $250. Full tables and other sponsorship and underwriting opportunities are available which include invitations for ten to the cocktail reception, induction dinner, prominent recognition in the event program, acknowledgement in evenings remarks, entitlement aspect (example: bar, reception) along with gift bags for all attendees and more. Also available this year are tribute pages, a meaningful way to honor our Hall of Fame inductees and National Award recipients. For more information or to purchase tickets or click here.

Proceeds from this year’s event will benefit various initiatives of the entire not-for-profit USA Water Polo organization, including growth programs such as Splashball™ for the young and Masters, which enables more athletes to continue playing water polo after high school and college, as well as USA Water Polo Olympic Development programs, and Olympic teams for Rio 2016.

To see the USA Water Polo National Award Winners announced last week, click here.

Background Information On USA Water Polo Hall of Fame Class of 2014

The men’s water polo program at UC-Irvine has won three NCAA Championships, sent more than a dozen athletes to the Olympic Games, and helped establish Orange County as a water polo mecca. The name that is most synonymous with all those accomplishments is Edward Newland. The Head Coach for the Anteaters from 1966 to 2005, Newland piled up 714 victories, was named National Coach of the Year three times, Conference Coach of the Year eight times and had his players win medals in multiple Olympic Games. A former goalkeeper in his playing days at Occidental, the “Old Man” as he is referred to, believed hard work could overcome everything and lived by that example. His personal workouts are the stuff of legend as he lifted weights for hours before practice began and would then crush a group of college kids in sit-up and push-up competitions. He preached fundamentals in an approach that allowed UC-Irvine to be the fifth member of the vaunted big four over several decades. The first water polo coach in the history of two scholastic juggernauts, Newport Harbor High School and Corona del Mar High School, Newland was a longtime swim coach at UC-Irvine guiding his squads to multiple NCAA crowns. Creator of the Newport Water Polo Foundation, Newland advocated for additional playing opportunities for his athletes to take on the best domestic competition available. Recruiter of the oft-overlooked or undervalued, he built a reputation on developing great players and better people. His tenure inspired a legion of grown men that look upon him as a father figure, willing to do anything for their beloved “old man.”

Those involved in high school boy’s water polo in Southern California over the last 40 plus years have surely felt the impact of Jim Sprague. Whether they were part of his highly successful teams at Sunny Hills High School, Servite High School, Rosary High School, La Canada High School, and Sonora High School or the opposition of those squads, a universal respect exists for this scholastic coaching legend. Winner of nine CIF Championships, his most famous work was accomplished at Sunny Hills in Fullerton, CA where he was the coach for 25 years and won four of those titles. He built a foundation that allowed the Lancers to capture 24 straight league titles and establish the record for consecutive league victories at 120, which still stands today. He then proceeded to lead Servite to multiple CIF crowns and in recent years has been a development specialist, providing short-term expertise to a variety of programs. A one-time assistant coach at USC and no stranger to the USA Water Polo club circuit, Sprague is considered an innovator in the area of video study within the sport. He pioneered the recording of matches for tactical breakdown and instruction well before his peers, something that is widely practiced today. With no signs of slowing down, Sprague remains an active presence on the sidelines of high school matches through the Southland.

Andy Takata will be most remembered for his work as a water polo official, but his impact on the game has been much bigger. In addition to wearing the whites at the most prestigious water polo events on earth, Takata volunteered his time to the sport in a variety of governance roles and developmental ventures. A 12-year member of the USA Water Polo Board of Directors, Takata also served as Vice-President, Treasurer and National Referees’ Chair. A member of the UANA Technical Water Polo Committee, he was also the Commissioner of the Western Water Polo Association and serves on the Technical Water Polo Committee for the Collegiate Water Polo Association. On top of all of that he is one of the best American water polo referees of all-time. In a career that started in 1978, Takata quickly climbed the ranks calling his first NCAA Championship Tournament in 1981. He traveled the world representing the United States and whistled matches at the 2000 Olympic Games, 1998 FINA World Championships, three FINA World Cups, several US Olympic Festivals and countless other international and domestic championships. He remains involved in the game today as a champion of the growth of women’s water polo along with referee development and recruitment.

In an era of women’s water polo where all-expense paid travel and Olympic dreams were still many years away, Sandy Vessey-Schneider was a household name. A member of the Women’s Senior National for more than 10 years, Vessey-Schneider broke into water polo on the boy’s varsity team at Marina High School in Southern California earning Most Valuable Player honors and later a spot in the school’s Hall of Fame. One of the top collegiate goalkeepers in women’s water polo in the 1980s, Vessey-Schneider competed at Long Beach State helping the 49ers to third place at the collegiate nationals in 1987. All the while she competed at the Senior National Team level winning silver at the 1989 FINA World Cup and bronze at the 1991 FINA World Championship. She competed in six U.S. Olympic Festivals, countless other international competitions, and helped various USAWP clubs to 16 Senior National Championship crowns. Highly decorated throughout her career, Vessey-Schneider was named the Most Valuable Goalkeeper in international play in Hungary and also earned All-American honors at many Senior National Championships. She parlayed her successful playing career into one as a coach where she has had a hand in every level of water polo. From age group with Golden West Water Polo Club to scholastic with her alma mater Marina High School to collegiate with her alma mater Long Beach State, Vessey-Schneider has done it all. A former goalie coach for the Women’s Senior National Team, she remains active today as a Masters athlete competing annually for the SODA Moms where she won a gold medal and was named an All-American in the 50+ division in the summer of 2013.

Selection Procedure Information
Inductees were chosen through a process that included open nominations by their peers, evaluation of their candidacy by the USA Water Polo Hall of Fame Committee, and final ratification of the committee’s recommendations by the USA Water Polo Board of Directors.  The Committee is co-chaired by Brent Bohlender and Chris Dorst, and includes Jody Campbell, Dion Gray, Maggie Kelly, Charles Schroeder and Scott Schulte. USA Water Polo inducted its first Hall of Fame class in 1976. To view past inductees of the USA Water Polo Hall of Fame click here.

About USA Water Polo 
USA Water Polo, Inc. is the national governing body for water polo in America, overseeing our United States Olympic program as well as 20 different championship events annually, such as Junior Olympics and Masters National Championships. With more than 40,000 members, USAWP is also the sanctioning authority for more than 500 Member Clubs and more than 400 tournaments nationwide. USAWP is committed to the development of the sport nationwide. It fosters grass-roots expansion of the sport, providing a national system of affiliated clubs, certified coaches and officials.

This release was provided to SwimSwam courtesy of USA Water Polo.

Leave a Reply

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

About Gold Medal Mel Stewart

Gold Medal Mel Stewart

MEL STEWART Jr., aka Gold Medal Mel, won three Olympic medals at the 1992 Olympic Games. Mel's best event was the 200 butterfly. He is a former World, American, and NCAA Record holder in the 200 butterfly. As a writer/producer and sports columnist, Mel has contributed to Yahoo Sports, Universal Sports, …

Read More »