U.S. men’s water polo squad announced, prioritizing fresh faces

Posted at 5:58 PM, Jul 02, 2021

A young roster filled predominately with first-time Olympians – with one notable exception –  was named as the United States men’s water polo team for the Tokyo Olympics Friday.

The exception is veteran Jesse Smith, 38, who heads to his fifth Olympic Games in Tokyo, tying former teammate Tony Azevedo (2000-2016) for the record for most Olympic appearances by an American water polo athlete. Smith is joined by fellow Rio returners Alex Bowen, Luca Cupido, Ben Hallock and Alex Obert, who will look to carry U.S. further in Tokyo than the 10th place finish they managed in 2016.

Head coach Dejan Udovicic also returns for his second Olympics in charge of the U.S. squad, and he brings with him plenty of young talent. Eight of the 13 team members are making their Olympics debut.

A pair of former NCAA champion attackers, Johnny Hooper (Cal, 2016) and Hannes Daube (USC, 2018), spearhead a dynamic forward line, while Alex Wolf and Drew Holland offer Udovivic a pair of fresh options in goal.

SEE MORE: Get to know Olympic hopeful Johnny Hooper

"I've been working really hard since I was about nine years old trying to make this [Olympic] dream come true, and for it to finally become a reality, it feels really good,” Daube said. “Obviously there is more to come and more goals to reach but right now this is a big accomplishment and a check off my bucket list."

The roster was announced just one day after the United States took silver at the World League Super Final on Thursday. The U.S. defeated Italy, 10-8, in the semifinals, then lost a close final to Montenegro 9-8. It is the first U.S. men’s water polo medal at a major competition since 2016. The U.S. last won an Olympic medal in 2008, a silver. It has never won Olympic gold in men’s water polo.

The Olympic team begins its Tokyo campaign in a Group A clash with South Africa on July 25.

U.S. Olympic Men’s Water Polo Team

1. Alex Wolf (Huntington Beach, CA/UCLA/Bruin)
2. Johnny Hooper (Los Angeles, CA/California/LA Premier)
3. Marko Vavic (Rancho Palos Verdes, CA/USC/Trojan)
4. Alex Obert (Loomis, CA/Pacific/NYAC)
5. Hannes Daube (Long Beach, CA/USC/North Irvine WPC)
6. Luca Cupido (Santa Margherita, Italy/California/Olympic Club)
7. Ben Hallock (Westlake Village, CA/Stanford/LA Premier)
8. Dylan Woodhead (San Anselmo, CA/Stanford/Sleepy Hollow Aquatics & Stanford WPF)
9. Alex Bowen (Santee, CA/Stanford/NYAC)
10. Ben Stevenson (Reno, NV/Pacific/NYAC)
11. Jesse Smith (Coronado, CA/Pepperdine/NYAC)
12. Max Irving (Long Beach, CA/UCLA/NYAC)
13. Drew Holland (Orinda, CA/Stanford/Olympic Club)