Cal’s Spieker Aquatic Center will host a world-class event today, as the current Olympic champion Australian women’s national water polo team will face the team it beat for the gold medal in 2000, the U.S. national team. The match, which starts at 12:30 p.m., is the final game of a four-city northern California tour for the teams.
But while the teams do have some of the same players that faced off in Sydney, Australia, in the Olympics, the U.S. has undergone some changing of the guard. Since the Sydney games, Maureen O’Toole, a pioneer for women’s water polo for the past twenty plus years, has officially retired from the U.S. team, leaving a new generation of athletes to carry the torch. Team USA will depend on Coralie Simmons, Brenda Villa, Erika Lorenz and Robin Beauregard, who combined for 30 Olympic goals, to lead the potent American offense, while on the defensive end the team will be anchored by the strong goal keeping of Bernice Orwig and Nicole Payne.
“The week of competition against Australia will prepare our team for the World Championships,” said U.S. coach Guy Baker. “The games against Australia will be very competitive, especially since the Australians seem to have a number of new players listed on their roster.”
As stated by Baker, team Australia has a very different look this summer. Nearly half of the gold medal team has retired or is taking the 2001 year off, but coach Istvan Gyorgeny has no intention of making 2001 a rebuilding year. Instead, he will reload with a group of Junior National Players that won the FINA World Championship in 1999 in addition to Olympic hero Yvette Higgins and starting Olympic goalkeeper Liz Weekes.
Tickets to the match are $10 at the gate. There will be an exhibition match beforehand by youth teams made up of players from the Bay Area.