June 30, 2008
USA Water Polo Release
STANFORD, Calif. - Stanford Women's Water Polo will be well-represented on the U.S. Women's Water Polo Team that will compete at the Olympic Games this summer in Beijing, as current standout Jessica Steffens and alumnae Brenda Villa `03 and Alison Gregorka `07 all earned spots on the team, USA Water Polo announced Monday. Steffens and Gregorka will make their Olympic debuts in Beijing, while Villa, the team's captain, will be making her third Olympic Games appearance.
"These three share an uncommon drive to be the best. They each showed that competitiveness while playing at Stanford, and they have displayed the utmost tenacity as international water polo players," said Stanford women's water polo Head Coach John Tanner. "They are ready to continue the tradition of Stanford athletes excelling on our Olympic team. All of us involved in the Stanford program are thrilled at the thought of watching them play in Beijing."
With the announcement, Steffens and Gregorka become Stanford's fifth and sixth Olympians in program history, and the presence of the three Cardinal athletes on the U.S. roster is the second-highest behind only the 2004 team, which boasted four Stanford standouts. In all, the six different Stanford players account for nine selections to the three U.S. Olympic Teams since women's water polo made it's debut at the 2000 Games in Sydney, Australia.
Steffens, a two-meter defender, redshirted the 2008 Stanford season to train with the U.S. squad following a 2007 campaign in which she scored 36 goals and was named All-MPSF honorable mention. The Danville native, one of 10 first-time Olympians on the squad, brings a bevy of international experience to the roster, with numerous appearances and medals on the international stage with the various U.S. national teams. In 2007, Steffens was a member of the gold medal-winning U.S. Pan-Am Games Team as well as the Junior National Team that participated at the Junior FINA World Championships in Portugal, and in 2006 was an alternate on the U.S. FINA World Cup squad.
"All of us involved with Stanford Water Polo are proud of Jess for making the team," Tanner said. "She came to Stanford as a relative unknown, and many people are amazed at her rapid rise in the sport. But she has always embraced challenges and made a major impact right away here. It's not at all surprising that she has made a similar impact in our national program. She is fearless and determined, and I'm sure she has already moved beyond focusing on making the team and is now engaged in the work of helping the team achieve Olympic glory."
Gregorka, like Steffens one of 10 Olympic debutantes on the U.S. roster, brings a successful international resumé to the table for the Beijing Games, having captured gold medals at both the junior and senior national team levels. A two-meter defender from Ann Arbor, Mich., Gregorka earned gold medals with the Junior National Team at the Junior Pan-Am Games in 2004 and at the 2005 FINA Junior World Championships. With the Senior National Team, she helped the U.S. pull off the double in 2007 with golds at the Pan-Am Games and the FINA World Championships. Gregorka was named to both the ACWPC All-America Second Team and the All-MPSF Second Team as a senior at Stanford in 2007.
"Alison's ability to front two-meter players has been vital to the U.S. team's pressing defense, and she has become a serious shooting threat," Tanner commented. "Given her skill in all phases of defense and her determination, I am confident she will have a terrific Olympic Tournament."
Villa, the U.S. captain and now a three-time Olympian, has been a U.S. Senior National Team member since 1996. The most experienced player on the U.S. roster, Villa helped the American side to a silver medal at the 2000 Games in Sydney, a bronze in 2004 at Athens, and now will look to add the gold medal in Beijing this summer. One of the top attackers for the U.S., Villa has been a part of five American squads at the FINA World Championships, and boasts gold medals with the 2005 and 2007 squads, as well as golds with the 2003 and 2007 Pan-Am Games teams. As a member of the Cardinal from 2001-03, Villa scored 172 goals and was named a first-team All-American all three years, also earning National Player of the Year honors in 2001. A native of Commerce, Calif., she was an integral part of Stanford's 2002 national champion team and was named the Peter J. Cutino Award winner as the nation's top collegiate women's water polo player.
"Brenda is a treasure. She has been a pioneer in so many ways, achieving All-American status in boy's high school water polo, competing in all three Olympic women's water polo competitions, and being the first student from her high school to attend Stanford. She sees only opportunity in any obstacle," Tanner noted.
The U.S. Women will open Olympic competition August 11 against China.