July 27, 2012
Stanford Olympic Page
London 2012 Water Polo Home Page
STANFORD, Calif. - Both the U.S. Men's and Women's Olympic Water Polo teams head into the 2012 London Games with Gold on their minds after each earning silver in 2008. Much of the teams' successes will be due to the contributions of nine current and former Stanford water polo players.
It's a formality to note that the nine Cardinal representatives makes the Stanford contingent the largest among all universities on the U.S. squads.
The U.S. men open Olympic play Sunday, July 29 against Montenegro at 11:40 a.m. PT (7:40 p.m. local time). The United States and Montenegro are joined in Group B by Great Britain, Hungary, Romania and Serbia.
The U.S. women open their Olympic tournament the following day, July 30, at 11:40 a.m. PT (7:40 p.m. local time) against Hungary. Joining the U.S. and Hungary in Group A play are China and Spain.
The U.S. women once again enter the Games as the gold-medal favorite. This time around in London, the fourth Olympic women's water polo tournament, the U.S. aims to fulfill its destiny and come home with the Gold Medal that has eluded it so far. The women have captured silver in 2000 (Sydney) and 2008 (Beijing) with a bronze in 2004 (Athens).
The five-woman Stanford crew on the U.S. team is the largest in school history. After Brenda Villa and Ellen Estes represented the Cardinal at the 2000 Sydney Games, Stanford would send four players to Athens in 2004 then three to Beijing in 2008.
Villa '03 will captain the U.S. women's team for the second straight Olympics this summer. She, along with Heather Petri, are the U.S.' only four-time women's water polo Olympians.
A member of Stanford's first NCAA title-winning team in 2002, Villa has established herself as one of the top players in the world, and scored a U.S.-leading nine goals at the Beijing Games four years ago.
Jessica Steffens '10 makes her second straight Olympic appearance, solidifying the U.S. defense once more. Four years ago, Steffens, the only collegian on the 2008 team, shone on defense, earning a spot on the Olympic All-Star Team following the U.S. team's silver medal performance.
Joining the veteran pair are Olympic debutantes and current Cardinal student-athletes Annika Dries '14, Melissa Seidemann '13 and Maggie Steffens '16, younger sister of Jessica. Together, the trio increases Stanford's number to nine different women who have represented the U.S. on the Olympic women's water polo team.
Dries and Seidemann took the 2012 collegiate season off to train with the U.S. team, earning their spots as two of the most dominating two-meters in the nation. In 2011, the tandem combined for 102 goals as Stanford captured its second NCAA title. Each was a finalist for the Peter J. Cutino Award, which would end up going to Dries, who netted 58 goals.
The youngest of the quintet, Maggie Steffens, showed her steeliness at the Pan Am Games last October. After the gold medal final went through four periods of regulation and overtime knotted at 7-7, the automatic Olympic berth at stake came down to a shootout.
As one of the five U.S. shooters, Steffens calmly went 4-for-4 on her attempts, with her fourth successful attempt proving the winner as the U.S. claimed the Olympic berth with a 27-26 win.
On the men's side Stanford continues its heralded tradition of representing the United States. The Cardinal's four players are all multiple-time Olympians, led by four-timer and veteran U.S. captain Tony Azevedo '05. Three-time Olympian Layne Beaubien '99 and two-timers Peter Hudnut '03 and Peter Varellas '06 keep united the quartet that helped lead the U.S. to a silver medal four years ago in Beijing.
Last October, the quartet led the U.S. to Pan Am gold and an automatic Olympic berth with a 7-3 victory over Canada in the final.
Stanford has been represented by at least two men at every Olympic Games since 1924 (Paris) with the exception of the 1948 London Games. Overall, 29 Cardinal men have represented the United States in the pool at the Games, with 20 of those alumni earning a medal.
The silver medal performance four years ago was the first time since 1988 that the U.S. reached the Olympic final. Entering the draw as the ninth-ranked team in the world, the Americans knocked off such teams as Italy, Serbia and top-ranked Croatia before falling to Hungary in the gold medal game.
Azevedo, the long-time U.S. captain, joins U.S. teammate Ryan Bailey as the only two male American water polo players to compete in four Olympic Games.
Azevedo has been one of the top U.S. performers in each of the past three Olympics. Four years ago, he was named to the Olympic All-Star Team in Beijing after leading the team with 17 goals as the U.S. claimed the silver medal. Azevedo ranked second among all scorers in Athens in 2004 with 15 goals and was fourth among all scorers with 13 goals at the 2000 Sydney Games.
In October, he scored three times and assisted on another goal in the gold medal game win over Canada.
Beaubien, a defender out of Coronado who will be making his third Olympic appearance in London, continues to perform as one of the top center defenders in the world. Along with being the first American to ever play in the Hungarian professional league (KSI in Budapest), Beaubien is a three-time Pan-Am Games gold medalist. Four years ago in Beijing, Beaubien netted eight goals during the U.S.' silver-medal run.
Hudnut will play in his second Olympic Games this summer. Hudnut, who stands a towering 6-5, will use his size and strength to serve the U.S squad ably at the defender position. In Beijing, Hudnut saw action in all seven U.S. matches, scoring a goal in the 12-11 upset of Italy and helping anchor the defense during its run to the gold medal match.
Hudnut was also an alternate on the 2004 Olympic Team, and added a goal in the Pan Am Games final win over Canada last October.
Also making his second Olympic appearance is Varellas, who also serves as volunteer assistant coach for the Cardinal men's program. Varellas scored five times in his Olympic debut in Beijing, including goals in upsets of Croatia and Serbia.
After assisting on a goal in the Olympic berth clincher at the Pan Am Games in October, Varellas scored a hat trick in a 7-6 loss to Italy at the FINA World League Super Final as the U.S. took fourth.
As Friday's Opening Ceremony officially opens the XXX Olympiad, water polo fans will have two more days to wait until the U.S. squads, powered by the Stanford Cardinal, take aim at their respective gold medals.