The USA Water Polo Women’s National Team has long planned on defending their Olympic Gold Medal this summer in Brazil, but first they have to qualify. This week Team USA Head Coach Adam Krikorian announced the roster of 13 women that will take part in the 2016 Olympic Qualification Tournament starting March 21 in Gouda, Netherlands. This event is Team USA’s one and only chance to qualify for this Summer’s Olympic Games and a top four finish will be required to punch a ticket to Rio. The 13 women selected for Gouda are the same that led Team USA to gold last month at the FINA Intercontinental Tournament in Lewisville, TX.
Four returners from the 2012 Olympic champs anchor the roster, led by captain Maggie Steffens (Danville, CA/Stanford/NYAC) alongside veterans Courtney Mathewson (Anaheim Hills, CA/UCLA/NYAC), Melissa Seidemann (Walnut Creek, CA/Stanford/NYAC) and the only two-time Olympian on the roster, Kami Craig (Santa Barbara, CA/USC/NYAC). Rising talents have joined the mix in recent years including 2016 AAU Sullivan award nominee, goalkeeper Ashleigh Johnson (Miami, FL/Princeton/NYAC), 2015 FINA World Championships MVP Rachel Fattal (Seal Beach, CA/UCLA/SOCAL), and two-time Cutino Award winner Kiley Neushul (Goleta, CA/Stanford/Santa Barbara).
While the conventional tournament waits with anticipation for the medal round, the Olympic Qualification Tournament features a quarterfinal round unlike any other. After five days of group play where Team USA will take on Japan, Canada, Spain, Greece, and South Africa it all boils down to a crossover round where the winner continues on the road to Rio and the loser does not.
2016 marks the second time the USA Women’s National Team program has had to compete in this event. In the lead up to the 2000 Olympic Games, the first to feature women’s water polo, Team USA qualified in Italy after failing to qualify in the Pan American Games a year earlier. With Brazil serving as host in 2016, the Pan American Games in 2015 did not serve as a continental qualifier as it had in previous years.
Live streaming is planned for the Olympic Qualification Tournament, broadcast information will be distributed closer to the start of competition. For up to the minute results from the event, be sure to follow USA Water Polo on Twitter (@USAWP).
For more information on the tournament, visit the official website at gaanvoorgoud.eu.
USA Women’s National Team Roster – 2016 Olympic Qualification Tournament (Hometown/School/USAWP Club)
1. Sami Hill (Santa Barbara, CA/UCLA/Santa Barbara)
2. Maddie Musselman (Newport Beach, CA/Corona del Mar HS/CdM Aquatics)
3. Melissa Seidemann (Walnut Creek, CA/Stanford/NYAC)
4. Rachel Fattal (Seal Beach, CA/UCLA/SOCAL)
5. KK Clark (Menlo Park, CA/UCLA/NYAC)
6. Maggie Steffens (Danville, CA/Stanford/NYAC)
7. Courtney Mathewson (Anaheim Hills, CA/UCLA/NYAC)
Lauren Neidigh is a former NCAA swimmer at the University of Arizona and the University of Florida. While her college swimming career left a bit to be desired, her Snapchat chin selfies and hot takes on Twitter do not disappoint. She is now coaching for Loggerhead Aquatics in her hometown …