Bay Area Veteran Water Polo Players Bring Experience to Team USA

Two veteran Team USA Women's Water Polo players will compete in their 4th Olympic Games

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Two women competing in the Olympics this year, 32-year old Stanford graduate Brenda Villa and 34-year old Orinda native Heather Petri, have thrown more passes, scored more goals, and played on more Olympic teams than just any other women in the entire sport.

    Competing in one Olympic Game is a major achievement.

    But for two Bay Area players on the women’s water polo team, the London Games will mark their fourth Olympic appearance.

    Two of the women, 32-year old Stanford graduate Brenda Villa and 34-year old Orinda native Heather Petri, have thrown more passes, scored more goals, and played on more Olympic teams than just any other women in the entire sport.

    “It’s a privilege to represent the U.S. another time and it’s just something incredible and you’re proud to do," Villa said.

    “Having played the last 12 years has been awesome," Petri added.

    These two women are among the most decorated in the sport.

    They were on the USA teams that won silver medals in the Beijing (2008) and Sydney (2000) Olympic Games, as well as a bronze in the Athens Games in 2004. Now they have their sights set on winning gold in London.

    “I’m really happy with how I’ve improved and over the last four years and as an athlete and understanding my role on this team and how I can contribute to hopefully a successful gold medal,” Petri said.

    Besides scoring goals, Petri and Villa see their roles as helping the younger players navigate the complexities of international play. 

    “At practice, seeing them improve and seeing them look at things in a different way motivates you and it helps you," Villa said.

    The youngest player on the team, 19-year-old Danville native Maggie Steffens, appreciates the experience they bring.

    “I definitely feel like I’m the little sister in the sense that I learn so much from them in water polo and just life in general," Steffens said. "I feel like I was really able to mature under them,  but at the same time they’re my teammates."

    The young energy can be infectious for Petri and Villa, who admit it takes longer to recover as they get older.

    “I have to kind of feed off the enthusiasm of  the younger players," Villa said.

    Petri added: “I think that what the younger players give us is a lot of energy and some youthful ingenuity."

    Both Petri and Villa say this is their last Olympic Games, and they’re ready to use the skills they’ve learned on the team for whatever the future holds for them.

    Villa will continue working with project 2020, a non-profit organization she co-founded that gives low income kids on the Peninsula access to swimming and water polo. Petri said she isn't sure what she'll do next.

    Watch the full story Tuesday on NBC Bay Area News at 6 p.m.