Santa Barbara Water Polo Club’s team, coached by Cathy Neushul, took silver over the weekend at the inaugural Kap 7 Women’s Champions Cup in Corona.
Santa Barbara’s team, composed of 18, 16, and 14 year old players were joined by none other than Olympic Gold Medalist Kami Craig, the world’s premier center forward. Craig grew up playing water polo for SBWPC and starred at Santa Barbara High, USC, and most recently for Team USA in the London Olympics.
Craig joined Shannon Cleary, Bess Grode, Paige Hauschild, Lauren McCaslin, Jamie Neushul, Ryann Neushul, Toni Shackelford, Ari St. Oegger, Morgan Towner, and Britten Vilander (goalie).
Kami was delighted to see young girls playing water polo at a high level just as she did. “I’m right back with my Santa Barbara water polo roots—playing when I was 12 years old.”
Craig is training lite at the moment and making a lot of public appearances on the heels of winning Team USA’s first Olympic Gold Medal. She plans on playing club water polo in Australia for part of the year and will compete for Team USA in this summer’s FINA World Championship Tournament in Barcelona, Spain.
“After that I am taking it year to year and we will see about Rio de Janeiro in 2016” said Craig.
Craig didn’t miss a shot on Sunday despite being double and triple teamed. Santa Barbara fielded the youngest team in the tournament but dispatched Del Mar and Foothill before falling to CHAWP by one goal in the final.
“Getting to know Kami as a normal person was a lot of fun” said Jamie Neushul, “she is really nice.” Playing water polo with Kami was fun too said Neushul, “every time you pass it to her she scores.” Craig encouraged SB’s youngsters, Paige Hauschild, Ryann Neushul, and Toni Shackelford who got a chance to rub shoulders with an Olympian who started out at the same time they are.
This was the final club tournament before the girls high school season starts. Santa Barbara won the 18U national title at this summer’s Junior Olympic National Championship and, not surprisingly, all three local high schools are ranked in the top ten in Division I CIF. Santa Barbara Water Polo Club is continuing the tradition that helped produce some of the world’s best women’s water polo players. In Kami Craig’s case not only the best but the nicest!