Redwood Empire Water Polo
Santa Rosa, CA Sonoma County

History of Women's Water Polo in the USA

Women's water polo was played regularly in the United States until 1926, when the Nationals were won by the Los Angeles Athletic Club. After this time, the sport was considered too rough for women, and no Nationals were held for 35 years. The Ann Arbor Swim Club, coached by Rose Mary Dawson, was instrumental in reviving the sport. Ann Arbor, later coached by John Urbanchek, 1996 U.S. Men's Olympic Swimming Assistant Coach, won the Nationals in 1961 through 1963. The goalkeeper for Ann Arbor was Micki King, later a United States Olympic diving gold medallist.

Northern Virginia Aquatic Club won seven national titles from 1964-69, although on the West Coast, Santa Clara Swim Club, with Pokey Watson Richardson and Claudia Kolb Thomas, both Olympic gold medallists in swimming, took two indoor titles in 1965 and 1966.

Water polo was introduced into Florida by Rob DeVust in the late 1960s, with Florida teams winning the majority of the national championships from 1971-75, although the Cincinnati Marlins won the Indoors in 1974 with a team including Deena Deardurff and Jenny Kemp, both Olympic swimmers.

Anaheim, later to become FAST (Fullerton Area Swim Team), coached by Stan Sprague, the 1978 National Team coach, won the Indoor Nationals in 1975 and 1977 and the Outdoors in 1976. Sainte Foy, from Quebec, Canada, coached by Claude Lavoie, won the 1976 Indoor Nationals. Merced, coached by Flip Hassett, the 1979 National Team coach, won the 1977 Outdoors. The 1978 and 1979 Indoor Nationals were won by Long Beach. Kelly Kemp coached these fine players from 1976 to 1978.

Sandy Nitta's Commerce Aquatics team captured the 1978 Outdoor Championship and the Commerce International Women's Water Polo Championships held in Commerce, Calif., which was the first such tournament in the United States and the largest women's tournament in the world. Sixteen teams participated in the tournament, including 11 teams from outside the United States.

During the 1978 Can-Am-Mex series in Long Beach, Calif., the Technical Water Polo Committee of FINA was able to view an exhibition game of women's water polo between the United States and Canada, with the U.S. winning, 3-2.

At the III World Championships in Berlin in August, 1978, five national teams were invited to play on an exhibition basis, with the U.S. finishing third behind Holland and Australia. After the U.S. earned another bronze medal in exhibition play at the 1982 World Championships in Guayquil, Ecuador, women's water polo made its official World Championships debut in Madrid, Spain in 1986. The United States squads have earned bronze medals in 1986 and 1991, and finished fourth in the world at the most recent championships in 1994.

In 1979, the first FINA World Cup for women was organized, with the United States taking the gold on American soil in Merced, Calif. While women do not compete in the Pan American Games, there is a Junior Pan American Championship, which has been won by the United States both times it has been held. The most recent addition to FINA's competition schedule for women is the Junior Women's World Championship, which will be held for the second time in August in Plzen, Czech Republic.

The U.S. Women's National Teams have been among the best in the world for the past twenty years and the thousands of women playing the sport in the United States today intend to help the U.S. stay there for many years to come.


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