US Olympic Women's Water Polo Team: Updated News, Roster & Analysis

Jesse ReedCorrespondent IJuly 23, 2012

US Olympic Women's Water Polo Team: Updated News, Roster & Analysis

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    The U.S. women's water polo team is one of the best teams in the world, and they'll look to bring home the gold medal at the 2012 Olympic Games in London.

    The team has been on a dominant run since 2006, winning medals at each of the major events from that point until a shocking defeat at the 2011 World Championships in Shanghai, when they finished in sixth place.

    They quickly bounced back, though, winning the gold medal at the 2011 Pan American Games to claim their spot as a 2012 Olympic team.

    Follow me as I fill you in on the final roster, the team's key players, their top competition and my final prediction.

Final Roster

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    The American women's water polo final roster, according to USAWaterPolo.org's official Olympic media guide:

     

    Goalkeepers

    Betsey Armstrong (New York Athletic Club [NYAC])

    Tumua Anae (SOCAL)

     

    Defenders

    Jessica Steffens (NYAC)

    Elsie Windes (Tualitin Hills Water Polo)

    Melissa Seidemann (Stanford)

    Maggie Steffens (Diablo)

     

    Center

    Kami Craig (Santa Barbara Water Polo Foundation)

     

    Attackers

    Heather Petri (NYAC)

    Kelly Rulon (NYAC)

    Brenda Villa (Olympic Club)

    Courtney Mathewson (NYAC)

     

    All-Around

    Lauren Wenger (NYAC)

Key Players

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    Betsey Armstrong, Goalkeeper

    According to the Los Angeles Times, Armstrong has a tattoo of an anchor on her right calf, and she's become one of the best anchors in the world as a goalkeeper.

    Her teammate, Brenda Villa, had this to say about the stalwart goalkeeper: "She's our last line of defense. She leads by example. She does her job and she does it extremely well."

    Armstrong has been universally recognized as one of the best water polo players, earning the Swimming World Magazine 2009 female water polo player of the year honors and the FINA 2010 female water player of the year, according to the team's media guide.

     

    Elsie Windes, Defender

    Windes is one of the leaders of this team, having played in every major championship over the last four years. She isn't a big-time goal scorer, though, and will spend most of her time playing scrappy defense in front of Armstrong.

    That doesn't mean she's incapable of scoring, as Windes tallied six goals in the 2009 World Championships and 23 goals in 18 matches during her senior year at Cal Berkeley.

     

    Kami Craig, Center

    Craig is a terrific player. She won the Peter J. Cutino Award twice (the best collegiate player in the country) and is a deadly scorer from her center position.

    She scored 12 goals in the team's Pan American showing, helping them earn the gold medal to automatically qualify for the 2012 Summer Games.

    Craig also brings championship experience with her to Team USA, having won the 2010 National Championships with the USC Trojans.

     

    Lauren Wenger, All-Around

    Wenger returns to the team after a short absence in 2010 due to a sports hernia. At 6'3", she is an imposing figure in women's water polo, and she's one of the best players Team USA has to offer.

    She is the most versatile player on the American team, and she can play every position in the pool except goalkeeper, according to NBCOlympics.com.

    Wenger can do it all, and she'll need to be at the top of her game for the Americans to win the gold in London in 2012.

Main Challengers

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    The U.S. women's water polo team doesn't have as many challengers as the men's team. They are widely considered to be the favorites to win gold this year, even though they finished in sixth place at the 2011 World Championships. 

    Greece, the team that won gold at that event, didn't even qualify for the 2012 Summer Games. With that in mind, here are the two teams that could challenge the Americans this summer in London.

     

    Australia

    The Aussies are always good when it comes to water sports. It's no surprise, either, given that most of the population lives near the coast. 

    They won gold at the 2000 Summer Games and bronze at the 2008 Summer Games, and they are strong contenders to medal again this year in London.

     

    Russia

    The Russians feature a strong team in 2012 that could challenge the Americans. They play tough defense and can explode for points on the offensive end at times. 

    They won the bronze medal at the 2000 Summer Games, and they have won bronze at four out of the last five World Championships. 

Prediction

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    The American women have been dominant in this sport ever since they were added to the Olympics in 2000. They had a minor hiccup in the 2011 World Championships, but I don't expect that to have any bearing on their 2012 Olympic run.

    I fully expect Team USA to bring home a medal in this event. They have too many skilled players on their roster, and they are loaded with experience.

    Prediction: Team USA wins the gold medal.