London 2012 Olympic Games One-Year Out Preview


Men's Water Polo


2012 Preview
The USA Men’s Water Polo Team rebounded in a major way at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. Ranked just ninth in the world, the team shocked the globe with a silver-medal finish, and followed it up in 2009 with a near miss at another medal at the FINA World Championships. In 2010, the squad continued to be among the elite in men’s water polo, taking fourth place at the FINA World Cup. Thus far in 2011, the U.S. remains on the cusp of medal success with a fourth-place mark at the FINA World League Super Final. A veteran squad that has gelled under the guise of head coach and four-time Olympian Terry Schroeder, the team is now in the process of blending in some rising stars to that seasoned mix of talent as it set sights on London. Schroeder is joined by the same group as in Beijing in Assistant Coach Robert Lynn along with Team Leader Rick McKee.

Team captain and three-time Olympian Tony Azevedo leads the charge for the United States. One of the top players in the world, Azevedo has been a key component in the United States’ success as of late coming off a professional season in Montenegro. Bruising center and fellow Long Beach, Calif., native Ryan Bailey anchors two meters and provides a formidable presence in front of the cage for the United States.

Other standouts for the red, white, and blue include goalie Merrill Moses, attackers Adam Wright and Peter Varellas, along with defender Peter Hudnut. Moses, one of the final cuts for the 2004 team, earned major redemption in 2008 as a defensive anchor in China for the United States. Wright has been a mainstay on the offensive end for the better part of a decade while Varellas, a lefty with a sharp outside shot has been honing his skills abroad in Italy. Hudnut returns in 2011 after two years away from the game and, if he picks up where he left off, is one of the world’s top center defenders. 

Storylines
  • Fourth Times The Charm? Four athletes on Team USA are preparing for their fourth Olympics. Only USA Men’s Head Coach Terry Schroeder has been a four-time Olympian and his first trip in 1980 never took place due to the Olympic boycott. That leaves Brenda Villa, Heather Petri, Tony Azevedo and Ryan Bailey as the first water polo athletes in American history with a shot at playing in four Olympic Games. 
  • For Brenda Villa and Heather Petri, it has been a long ride together from unexpectedly medaling in the 2000 Games in Sydney to a rise as a world power. Meanwhile Ryan Bailey and Tony Azevedo, from the same Southern California community, have gone from rising stars to the dominant inside/outside presence for the United States.
  • Firefighter: Ryan Bailey, a three Olympian and 2008 silver medalist, recently completed the fire academy in Southern California. Bailey will have a new career opportunity waiting when he steps away from the water-polo pool.
  • Peter Hudnut Returns: Injuries ravaged his early career, forcing him to miss the 2004 Olympics. He's had literally a laundry list of operations and ailments. He made the 2008 team and thought he was done, stepping away to attend Stanford University Business School. Now, as he is finishing up his master’s degree in business administration, he decided to give it one more shot to go after the gold medal in London and got the blessing of the team. He was inspired watching the team play on last 4th of July and is now back in full-time training.
  • The Thousand Oaks Community: Prior to the 2008 Olympic Games, the Men’s National Team moved its training from Los Alamitos, Calif., to Thousand Oaks, Calif., and the home community of Head Coach Terry Schroeder. The players have been taken in the by the community in Ventura County and treated as a true “home team.” Local community members host the athletes in their homes and provide them with meals free of charge, while local facilities such as California Lutheran University and Oaks Christian High School provide practice time at no cost. In addition, local eateries and restaurants have taken to hosting the team during their training times with free meals to help offset the cost of preparing for the Olympic Games.
  • Merrill Moses competed in the 2008 Olympics, but recently had his silver medal stolen and is hoping to earn a replacement in London. He was last cut in 2004, gave up the game, came back, made the team, became the starter, and then had an amazing Olympics in Beijing.
Key Athletes
  • Tony Azevedo: Three-time Olympian (2000, 2004, 2008), team captain – Long Beach, Calif.
  • Ryan Bailey: Three-time Olympian (2000, 2004, 2008) – Long Beach, Calif.
  • Adam Wright: Two-time Olympian (2004, 2008) – Seal Beach, Calif.
  • Merrill Moses: Olympian (2008) – Palos Verdes, Calif.
  • Peter Varellas: Olympian (2008) – Moraga, Calif.
  • Peter Hudnut: Olympian (2008) – Encino, Calif.
Qualification Process
The U.S. can qualify by winning the 2011 FINA World League Super Final, finishing in the top three of 2011 FINA World Championships, winning the 2011 Pan American Games or competing in the 2012 Olympic Qualification Tournament. There are no trials and the team roster is selected by the coaching staff through evaluation.

Key Dates
  • July 16-21, 2011: 2011 FINA World Championships –Shanghai, China
  • Oct. 13-29, 2011: 2011 Pan American Games – Guadalajara, Mexico
  • January 2012: 2012 Pan Pacific Tournament – Australia
  • TBD: 2012 FINA World League Super Final – TBD
  • TBD: 2012 Exhibition Series – TBD

Communications Contact
Greg Mescall
gmescall@usawaterpolo.org
714-500-5455