Search:
PHOTO COURTESY OF USA WATER POLO; TEXT BY DAN ALBANO, OCVARSITY.COM
Orange County products, from left, Aria Fischer, Maddie Musselman, Rachel Fattal, Courtney Mathewson, Kaleigh Gilchrist and Makenzie Fischer were named to the U.S. Olympic women's water polo team on Thursday in Los Angeles.

Fischer sisters among six O.C. players on U.S. women's water polo team

STAFF WRITER

LOS ANGELES – Coach Adam Krikorian shared a quote Thursday from Muhammad Ali before he named his U.S. women’s water polo team for the Rio Olympics in August.

The man who has no imagination has no wings.

The message about chasing a dream found its mark just like a quick right hand from the recently passed boxing champion.

The six Orange County players selected to the gold medal-favorite squad made bold decisions, sacrificed and overcame obstacles to hear their names announced at the LA84 Foundation gathering.

“The ones that end up making it at the end – people might not like to hear this – but they’re not always the most talented players or the best players,” Krikorian said later.

“They’re the ones, certainly with talent, who have been able to persevere through the tough times and continue no matter the ups and downs (and) continue to have that goal and that dream in mind and … have the courage to chase it.”

On a day void of roster suspense but rich in history and enthusiasm from L.A. 2024 Olympic bid campaigner Janet Evans, it was the stories of players who chased their dreams – even when the odds seemed long – that rose to the surface.

Krikorian mirrored his roster from Team USA’s Olympic qualification tournament earlier this year, selecting Orange County products Courtney Mathewson (Canyon), Rachel Fattal (Los Alamitos), Kaleigh Gilchrist (Newport Harbor), Maddie Musselman (Corona del Mar) and sisters Aria and Makenzie Fischer (Laguna Beach).

The 13-player roster featured star goalie Ashleigh Johnson, a Floridian who became the first African-American woman to make the U.S. Olympic women’s water polo team.

Mathewson, the team’s oldest player at 29, joined Maggie Steffens, Melissa Seidemannn and Kami Craig (USC) as returning players from Team USA’s gold-medal squad at the London Olympics.

Mathewson (UCLA) overcame surgeries on both her shoulders and self-doubt about if she wanted to continue her playing career.

“I can definitely relate to that quote,” said Mathewson, who had surgeries in November 2012 and December 2013. “It’s been a hard journey since 2012 … but this was my goal, to make the team again and to be on the podium one more time before it’s all over.”

Gilchrist (USC) put her surfing career on hold to pursue her Olympic spot. She manage an early morning surf Thursday in Newport Beach.

“It was a tough decision,” said Gilchrist, who has surfed as an amateur in professional contests.

“There were plenty of times that I questioned if I was making the right decision but obviously today is just a staple reminding me that the right decision was made. … I just love the team aspect.”

Musselman and the Fischers – daughters of Olympic water polo player Erich Fischer – will give the reigning FINA World Champions three teens in Rio. The team’s average age is 23.

Aria Fischer, 17, joined the squad in 2014 as a longshot and later withdrew from high school to train more with the powerhouse team.

Makenzie, 19, deferred her freshman season at Stanford.

“A lot of people probably thought that it was a longshot (for me to make the Olympic team),” Aria said. “I really just chased my dream. It was a big decision to drop out of school.”

Makenzie was surprised when her sister joined Team USA but didn’t doubt her. “She’s a very driven person,” Makenzie said.

Musselman also withdrew from Corona del Mar to commit more time to the national team but said she was “smiling all day” Thursday, also her 18th birthday.

“I sacrificed a lot (with) high school but obviously I wouldn’t trade it for anything,” she said. “With a dream so big, you want to chase it as hard as you can.”

Fattal (UCLA) deferred her senior season at UCLA and missed graduating with her classmates en route to Thursday’s announcement.

“It’s all worth it in the end,” she said.

Contact the writer: dalbano@ocregister.com

U.S. OLYMPIC WOMEN'S WATER POLO TEAM

Pos

Player

Hometown

School

GK

Sami Hill

Santa Barbara

UCLA

A

Maddie Musselman

Newport Beach  

Corona del Mar HS

D

Melissa Seidemann

Walnut Creek

Stanford

A

Rachel Fattal

Seal Beach

UCLA

D

KK Clark

Menlo Park

UCLA

A

Maggie Steffens

Danville

Stanford

A

Courtney Mathewson  

Anaheim Hills

UCLA

A

Kiley Neushul

Goleta

Stanford

C

Aria Fischer

Laguna Beach

Laguna Beach HS

A

Kaleigh Gilchrist

Newport Beach

USC

D

Makenzie Fischer

Laguna Beach

Laguna Beach HS

C

Kami Craig

Santa Barbara

USC

GK

Ashleigh Johnson

Miami

Princeton

Coach: Adam Krikorian; Assistants: Dan Klatt, Chris Oeding


See archived 'Sports' stories »
 


Other Varsity coverage:
Inland Empire
Search Players


Football:

La Serna 21, Tesoro 28 - 00:00 4th QT - Completed

Football:

Mullen 25, Orange Lutheran 49 - 02:48 4th QT - Completed

Football:

Estancia 7, University 37 - 00:10 4th QT - Completed

Football:

Redondo Union 12, Mission Viejo 49 - 02:04 4th QT - Completed

Football:

Huntington Beach 6, San Juan Hills 38 - 00:00 4th QT - Completed

Football:

El Modena 10, Villa Park 29 - 00:00 4th QT - Completed

Football:

Capistrano Valley 17, Trabuco Hills 10 - 00:00 4th QT - Completed

Football:

Beckman 17, Tustin 34 - 00:00 4th QT - Completed

Football:

Azusa 7, Brethren Christian 69 - 00:00 4th QT - Completed

Football:

Valencia 7, Troy 35 - 06:49 4th QT - Completed