Pan American Games: SB locals win gold in water polo, volleyball

Kami Craig, Sami Hill, and Kiley Neushul wearing Pan American gold medals. (Courtesy Photo)

Kami Craig, Sami Hill, and Kiley Neushul wearing Pan American gold medals. (Courtesy Photo)

Kami Craig, Sami Hill, and Kiley Neushul brought Pan American Water Polo Gold home from the 2015 Games held in Toronto, Canada. Team USA went undefeated throughout the tournament defeating Cuba, Brazil, and Argentina before crushing host Canada 13-4 in the final. This is the third Pan Am title for Craig, an Olympic Gold Medalist, who anchored Team USA at the 2012 games in London. Canada and the U.S. faced each other in the 2011 Pan Am title game where the contest ended in a record-setting 27-26 shootout won by the U.S. Sami Hill recorded 15 saves in Team USA’s 16-3 semi-final victory over Brazil.

By Peter Neushul

The Pan Am Games champions normally receives an automatic bid to the upcoming Olympics. Because the 2016 Games are in Rio de Janeiro, Pan Am Bronze Medalist Brazil is already guaranteed Americas bid. To compete in Rio, Craig, Hill, and Neushul will have to place in the top four at the European Olympic Qualification tournament in Gouda, Netherlands, in March 2016.

This week Team USA is competing at the 2015 FINA World Championships held in Kazan, Russia. The Americans have advanced to face Australia in the first semifinal and Italy will face 2008 Olympic champion Netherlands in the second semifinal. The 2015 FINA World Championships are streamed live at

At the 2013 World Championships in Barcelona, the US took fifth place after losing a close quarterfinal match to eventual champion Spain.

Fisher, Olmstead coach USA Volleyball to Gold

Dan Fisher, a former high school star at Dos Pueblos and current head coach at Pitt, led the USA women to a gold medal. Assisting Fisher was Heather Olmstead, a Carpinteria High School alum who now is the head coach at BYU. The two coaches with local ties saw Team USA win five of six matches at the Pan Am Games, capped by a 3-0 sweep of Brazil in the Gold Medal match.

USA defeated the Dominican Republic in the semifinals and Cuba 3-1 in the quarters. The gold medal was the first for the USA in women’s indoor volleyball at the Pan Am Games in 48 years.

Gold-medal match scores were 25-22, 25-21, 28-26. Brazil held a 20-12 lead in the third set before the Americans rallied to clinch the championship.

“It was a dramatic end to a great tournament,” Fisher said in an article posted on the Pitt Athletics website. “It was certainly one of my best volleyball memories and I am happy to end on such a great note. The team stepped up when it mattered.”

Fisher holds a 44-20 record in two years at the helm for the Panthers, including a 25-6 mark last season. ——Presidio Sports

Men’s volleyball athletes include UCSB’s Seif, Evans 

UCSB volleyball setter Jonah Seif and former UCSB outside hitter Miles Evans also traveled to Toronto. Seif was playing for the indoor team while Evans paired with Ian Satterfield in the Beach Volleyball tournament. The indoor team placed sixth overall, losing to Mexico, 3-1, in the fifth-place match. Evans and Satterfield finished 11th, winning their final match 21-16, 30-28 over Nicaragua. ——Presidio Sports

Fesembeck represents Argentina

SBCC water polo player Rocio Fesembeck played for Argentina. Fesembeck, a former Santa Barbara High star, was named Player of the Year in the Western State Conference while playing at SBCC as a freshman in 2014.  Fesembeck came off the bench to play in every game for Argentina.