Beijing, China – August 10, 2008 – The waiting is nearly over for the reigning FINA World Champions and number one ranked U.S. Olympic Team for Women’s Water Polo. They will open play at the 2008 Olympic Games against the host country China at the Ying Tung Natatorium at 5:00pm local time (2:00am PST) on Monday, August 11. It is scheduled to air on NBC at 9am pacific time on August 11.
Recipients of a Silver Medal in Sydney and a Bronze Medal in Athens, Team USA enters the tournament as one of the Gold Medal favorites, an expectations they have been carrying since defeating Australia in Melbourne in March of 2007 to claim the World Championship. They enter the Olympics coming off a Silver Medal finish at the 2008 FINA World League Super Final in Tenerife, Spain falling to champion Russia in the final.
Captain Brenda Villa (Commerce, CA) and veteran Heather Petri (Orinda, CA) return for their third Olympics attempting to complete their collection of medals. Joining them from the 2004 edition is defender Natalie Golda (Fullerton, CA) while first-time Olympian Betsey Armstrong (Ann Arbor, MI) anchors the team in net.
Head Coach Guy Baker leads the team into their third straight Olympic appearance as the sport for women first appeared in the 2000 games. “I’m pretty excited; it’s a great opportunity to play against the host team to start the Olympics. I think the crowd will be great and loud and I’m really glad it is the opening game, it makes it special,” Baker said.
As for the team, “They are excited, in our program we measure ourselves in how we do against a team in their own country and there is no better test than this,” he added.
China and the United States have met up twice already this year at the Good Luck Beijing Water Polo Open in March and at the World League Super Final with USA claiming victory in both contests 8-3 and 12-9. In the last meeting Brittany Hayes (Santa Ana, CA), Alison Gregorka (Ann Arbor, MI), and Patty Cardenas (Commerce, CA) each scored two goals. Prior to that the two teams met twice in World League Super Finals (’06 and ’07), the 2006 World Cup, and the 2005 World Championships.
As for the Chinese team they are a fast improving team that saw their junior team take second place at the 2007 FINA Women’s Junior World Championships. “China has improved a lot, they have our attention, we have been focusing on this game for a long,” Baker added.
Notes: Previous finishes at the Olympics for the team include a loss in the Gold Medal game to Australia in 2000 and a Bronze Medal victory over Australia in 2004. Following China, the team will take on Italy and Russia to complete play in Group A.