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Water Polo

Kami Craig, Kiley Neushul, Sami Hill Named to U.S. Olympic Water Polo Team

Kami Craig, Kiley Neushul and Sami Hill were named to the U.S. Women’s Water Polo team for this summer’s Olympic Games in Brazil.
Kami Craig, Kiley Neushul and Sami Hill were named to the U.S. Women’s Water Polo team for this summer’s Olympic Games in Brazil.

USA Water Polo made it official: Santa Barbara’s Kami Craig, Kiley Neushul and Sami Hill are Olympians.

The local trio was named Thursday to the 13-player USA Women’s Water Polo team that will compete in the Olympic Games this August in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  Coach Adam Krikorian introduced the team during a ceremony at the LA84 Foundation in Los Angeles.

Craig joins veterans Maggie Steffens, Courtney Mathewson and Melissa Seidmann from the 2012 Olympic gold medal-winning squad.

Neushul and Hill are among the team’s nine newcomers. The others include Maddie Musselman, Rachel Fattal, KK Clark, Aria Fischer, Kaleigh Gilchrist, Makenzie Fischer and Ashleigh Johnson.

Neushul, an attacker, and Hill, a goalie, were teammates at Dos Pueblos High before moving on to Stanford and UCLA, respectively. Craig, a center, played at Santa Barbara High and at USC. She’ll be playing in her third Olympics.

Craig said the selection to represent her country at the Games doesn’t get old.

“Never,” she said. “Yesterday (Adam) told me, ‘Congratulations, you made the 2016 Olympic team.’ Immediately I started crying. It never gets old. You never know, there’s always a bit of anxiety or nerves going into making a team or selection of a team. Even though it would be my third Olympics, going through the process in what you have to overcome – the injuries, the change of the roster, the playing time, the practices, the uniting of the team — it’s all challenging. Anything you put 100 percent commitment and heart into, it’s pretty rewarding when you get to actually hear those words being said.”

For Neushul, the reality of being named a U.S. Olympian is “surreal,” she said. “I don’t have the words to describe it right now. I’ve been playing since I was 7 years old, so I’ve been playing 16 years. Since I was 7 I had a dream to be an Olympian. Sixteen years is a lot of hard work and a lot of competition — all of us have been through it. It takes a lot to be an Olympian and when (Adam) told me I was going to the 2016 Olympics tears immediately started falling on my face. It’s an amazing feeling, and I cannot wait to represent not just my country, but my town, my family and all my teammates who have helped me along the way and my coaches.”

Hill said she “hysterically cried” when coach Krikorian told her she made the team.

“Hearing the words is something I’ll never forget. It’s just unbelievable,” she said. “It’s the culmination of all the hard work we’ve done the last four years. Just thinking maybe it could happen, and yesterday it happened for me and it’s been so amazing. This group of women is just so incredible to play with. I couldn’t more happy and excited.

On representing her country in the Olympic Games, Hill said, "The magnitude of it is is so big. I hope I can inspire people to chase their dream. Just the responsibility that comes with it, I feel like the whole thing kind of crashed on me yesterday… ‘I’m going to be at the Olympic Games, representing my country.’ It’s just unreal.”                  

Team USA will open competition at the Olympic Games on Aug. 9 against Spain. China and Hungary also are in the preliminary-round group.

Noozhawk sports editor Barry Punzal can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

The 2016 U.S. Olympic Women’s Water Polo team includes local players (bottom row, from left) Kiley Neushul and Sami Hill and (back row, third from the right) Kami Craig. Click to view larger
The 2016 U.S. Olympic Women’s Water Polo team includes local players (bottom row, from left) Kiley Neushul and Sami Hill and (back row, third from the right) Kami Craig. (Photo courtesy of Jonathan Moore/USA Water Polo)

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