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U.s. Olympic Men's Water Polo Team:

UCI represents well

WATER POLO: Bailey, Hutten, Merlo, Powers named to Olympic team; Mann of CdM is alternate.

July 01, 2008|By Steve Virgen

Merlo’s from Fresno, not exactly a breeding ground for water polo players. But like Hutten, he also listened to Newland’s words and concentrated on the two traits. Self-discipline. Self-motivation. It could also help after water polo, he thought.

It would also help him earn a spot on a U.S. Olympic team that’s in position to make history.

It’s been 20 years since Team USA has won a medal at the Olympics. But the Americans are believers that’s all about to change.

“I totally believe these guys can win a gold medal,” said Schroeder, who was on the U.S. men’s team that won silver in 1988. “I think this could be one of the best teams USA has ever put in the water.”

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The UCI quartet figure to be key in that belief.

Bailey, 6-foot-6, 245 pounds, is the Americans’ top two-meter man, while Powers (6-7, 230) can also play at two meters and is blessed with an extremely fast shot.

“A little bit of a wild thing with that cannon arm,” Schroeder said with a smile, while talking about each player.

When he referred to Hutten, he said, “One of the up-and-coming stars for Team USA,” and to Merlo, “He has speed and a great shot. He’s one of our key leaders with our young players.”

They’ve been a big reason why Team USA has improved so much from getting “beat up” against Serbia-Montenegro in February.

The Americans scored an impressive win over Croatia, the top team in the world, and won silver at the FINA World Super League Final in June.

“I feel a lot better now after this last trip,” said Powers out of San Luis Obispo High. “Before I believed we could do it. I didn’t know if everyone else did. But this last trip everyone showed they really believed … We all know we can win a gold medal now.”

Developing their skill at UC Irvine has much to do with the quartet’s confidence. Newland, obviously, has played a big part in that.

“UCI builds players,” said Bailey, the 1998 Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Player of the Year. “You don’t have to be the No. 1 guy in high school. You don’t have to be the all-star coming out. If you go [to UCI] and work hard, they’ll make you the player you want to be.

I’m out of Long Beach Millikan. We were perennial second place in our league, lost in the first round of CIF. Coach Newland is a total animal. I learned what it was like to work hard and be a player.”

And now he’s a three-time Olympian.


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