Athletics News

USA Water Polo Presents Annual Awards For 2009

**photo gallery**

Huntington Beach, Calif. – January 31, 2010 – USA Water Polo's Annual Awards returned in 2010 with recipients honored for their work in 2009 at a dinner during the Annual ODP Summit on Saturday, January 30, 2010.  The awards were named in honor of a person or persons who have made an extraordinary contribution to the sport, and this year the recipients included a wide range of coaches and contributors from all across the United States.

An additional highlight from the evening was a celebration of Team USA. Athletes, coaches, referees, and contributors that took part in Olympic Games, World Championships, and World Cups were recognized at the start of the evening.

USA Water Polo Awards for 2009:

Monte Nitzkowski Distinguished Men's Coaching Award (Elite): Jovan Vavic, USC and Trojan Water Polo - Vavic is honored this year for his success with the USC Men of Troy.  USC took the 2009 NCAA Men's title making it back to back crowns as well as 5 straight finals appearances. Jovan, one of the top coaches in the country, also contributes to age group water polo through his coaching efforts at Trojan Water Polo Club

Sandy Nitta Distinguished Women's Coaching Award (Elite): Adam Krikorian, UCLA and USA Women's National Team - Krikorian is a deserving winner for the elite level women's coach of the year.  After taking the UCLA Bruin women to a 2009 NCAA title, the school's fifth straight, he backed that up with a FINA World League title and then capped it off with a 2009 FINA World Championship with Team USA women.

Bill Barnett Distinguished Men's Coaching Award (Scholastic): Rudy Ruth, Northeast Zone and Wilson High School - Those that have the pleasure of Rudy's company poolside are constantly reminded of his immense stature as coach and leader. He is well known for his congeniality and positivity. His passion and determination have driven the enormous growth of a thriving high school water polo community in Pennsylvania. But perhaps he is best known for his approach to the game and to life. Rudy's name is synonymous with the very best kind of sportsmanship, where a passion for winning is always accompanied by respect for the rules, the players, the officials and the greater water polo community.

Doc Hunkler Distinguished Women's Coaching Award (Scholastic): Gabriel Martinez, Commerce Aquatics - Gabriel Martinez is one of the anchors at Commerce, and in institution in the Southern California water polo scene. Martinez led the Commerce club to top 8 finishes at the 2009 Junior Olympics in  10u CoEd, 12u Girls, 14u Girls , 16u Girls (first place) & 18u Girls, Women's Nationals and Girls Speedo Cup.

Ted Newland Distinguished Men's Coaching Award (Developmental): Takeshi Inoue, United Water Polo (Los Alamitos) - Coach Inoue piloted his club to the championship of the 2009 Boys Speedo Cup and JO's 14u Boys.  United also placed at the National Junior Olympics 12u Boys and 10u Co-Ed Divisions. Takeshi has helped make the United Club a consistent competitor in the Southern California water polo scene.

Brent Bohlender Distinguished Women's Coaching Award (Developmental): Cathy Neushul, Santa Barbara Water Polo Foundation - Santa Barbara Water Polo Foundation and Cathy Neushul were solid contenders for the 2009 Chairman's Cup Race. Cathy led the Santa Barbara girls teams to top 10 finishes in the 2009 National Junior Olympics in 10u Co-Ed, 12u Girls, 14u Girls (first place), 16u Girls & 18u Girls, Women's 20u, Women's Nationals, and Girls Speedo Cup.

Bret Bernard Distinguished Referee Award (Elite): Steven Rotsart - Steve has become one of the most respected referees at the elite level in the United States.  He was selected to officiate at both the Men's and Women's NCAA Championships and also represented the US at the World Championships in Rome, Italy where he was chosen to referee the Women's Bronze medal game.

Tom Hermstad Distinguished Referee Award (Scholastic): Levon Dermindijan & Madisen Drury - Levon and Madisen have both worked very hard and made countless contributions to the sport this year. They have also gone above and beyond to take advantage of every opportunity they could to practice their craft.  Both have become very fine referees with a bright future and continue to play an important role in their respective zones always leading by example.

Aaron Chaney Distinguished Referee Award (Developmental): Marvel Shoen - Marvel has shown incredible dedication to the sport, not only in her efforts to develop her skills as a referee, but also in her role as a leader in the Pacific Northwest.  She was an integral part of an outstanding crew at this year's Speedo Cup and surely will continue to be a fixture on the National scene. 

Barbara Kalbus Distinguished Volunteer Award: Marold Kamai and Lori Gentry - Marold is a parent volunteer who "accepted the challenge" this year of leading the Zone pilot for "Splashball".  Marold's work has provided USAWP with the impetus to move forward with a national rollout in 2010.

Lori has unselfishly given of her time in several critical roles.  Not only does serve as a club administrator for Foothill Water Polo but she serves as a board member for Coastal Zone.  This year she added the role of ODP Coordinator and has done a stellar job in the first year of the program

Bryan Weaver Master of the Year Award: Jeff Roy - Roy is the founder and player/coach of Tri Valley Water Polo Club which started in 1997.  The club has earned 11 Masters National Championships and two FINA Masters Gold.  Jeff is being honored this year as a result of his ongoing, diligent efforts to encourage new and former players to participate in the Masters program.  The Pacific Zone currently boasts the greatest number of Masters athletes as USA Water Polo members.

Burke/Ratkovic Zone Service Award: Mark Cousineau, Southern Pacific Zone - Mark leads the largest Zone in USAWP with nearly 8000 members.  In 2009, the So PAC Zone saw the largest increase in active members. As importantly, Mark and his leadership team introduced a new sportsmanship policy, piloted Splashball running two successful seasons, and refined a communication system that is a benchmark for Zone communication efforts.

The USA Water Polo Lifetime Service Award: Jimmy Linehan & Rick Marsh - Jimmy's history with water polo begins with his playing in high school in San Antonio in 1984 and has continued non stop through his participation with HOPS as a Masters athlete today.  His official service with USAWP began in 1997 when asked to become Southwest Zone Chair.  He continued in that role until early this year.  Jimmy has served on the USAWP board of Directors as well as several national committees. More importantly he has been a cornerstone for growth of USAWP in the region. Jimmy helped establish the Mountain Zone in the early 2000's to provide a catalyst for growth in the area by creating smaller geographies to provide more focus.  Under his leadership, the Southwest Zone has seen continued growth with particular strength in the high school division providing a critical link to USAWP while more than doubling the number of teams competing in the state. 

Rick is being recognized for his years of distinguished service with USAWP. He served as Midwest Zone Chair from 1992 through 2008.  He also served on the USAWP Board of Directors from 1992-2003.  Throughout this time Rick has also been an advocate for the sport at the high school and collegiate level through his active role with Illinois High School Association, as coach of the Northwestern University Men's Water polo coach, and chairman of the Big Ten Water Polo league.  Rick has also been recognized as the 1997 Phil Stelnicki Award Winner (Illinois Water Polo – Lifetime Achievement Award); Illinois Water Polo Hall of Fame (1998); United States Water Polo Volunteer of the Year 2000; Mike Murphy Award Winner 2003 (Top Illinois Water Polo Official). 

USA Water Polo Chairman's Cup: SoCal Water Polo - The SOCAL Club clinched the 2009 Chairman's Cup by winning the 2009 National Championships for 18u Boys at JO's and Speedo Cup Girls.  They placed in the top 9 at the following championships: National Junior Olympics 14u Boys, 16u Boys, 10u Co-Ed, 12u Girls, 14u Girls, 16u Girls & 18u Girls and Women's 20u. 

Background On Award Namesakes:

Monte Nitzkowski is synonymous with men's water polo in the 1960s, 70s, and 80s serving as Head Coach of Men's Olympic Team in 1972, 1980, and 1984, leading Team USA to a bronze medal in 1972 and a silver medal in 1984. Nitzkowski also served as an Assistant Coach with the 1968 and 2000 Men's Olympic Team. Sandy Nitta is a pioneer for women's water polo, an Olympic swimmer as a teenager; Nitta segued to water polo and held the post as Head Coach of the Women's National Team during large parts of the 80s and 90s, leading Team USA to bronze medals at the 1986 and 1991 World Championships.  She was also instrumental in the creation of Commerce Aquatics, a groundbreaking program.

Bill Barnett, an outstanding high school coach at Newport Harbor High School, with 10 CIF boys championships and four girls championships, initiated and coached the first USA Men's Junior National Team, then picked up where Nitzkowski left off in the 1980s, guiding the Men's program to a silver medal at the 1988 Olympic Games and a gold medal at the 1991 World Cup. Meanwhile "Doc" Hunkler, three-times named National Collegiate Coach of the Year, was a visionary for women's water polo who fought to have a true national women's collegiate championship and helped guide the programs at Slippery Rock University to unprecedented heights spanning three decades, including ten top-three finishes and a national women's collegiate championship in 1995. Hunkler also holds the distinction as the only coach to win both a Men's and Women's Olympic Festival Gold Medal

Few have groomed more men for Olympic competition than Ted Newland. Entering the coaching scene in the late 1960s Newland turned the University of California-Irvine into a tenacious competitor, earning three NCAA titles as he coached well into the new millennium. Called by some the "godfather" of high school water polo in Northern California, Brent Bohlender's Women's Junior National Teams captured two bronze medals from 1984 to 1999; Bohlender recently amassed his 700th career victory on the scholastic circuit keeping Johansen High School as a perennial contender. Lastly on the club circuit, Bohlender's Modesto-Stanislaus club won 18 National Championships over 34 years.

Bernard, Hermstad, and Chaney all took US officiating to unparalleled heights during their time in the whites.  As a past president of USA Water Polo, Bernard also whistled the 1992 and 1996 Olympic Games and was the preeminent collegiate official for many years. Hermstad was a fixture at several Olympic Games whistling the 1972, 1976, 1984, and 1988 Olympic Games in addition to four World Championships and has worked tirelessly on behalf of water polo officials, helping to form the USA Water Polo National Referee Committee. Last but not least, Chaney capped an outstanding officiating career serving as the United States referee at the most recent Olympic Games in Beijing in 2008 as well as 2004 in Athens and now currently serves as Assistant Coach for the USA Women's National Team.

Current Masters Committee Chair Bryan Weaver continues to work tirelessly for more playing opportunities while also piloting the boy's team at Brentwood High School. Long-time manager of the Men's National Team and holder of various offices since the incorporation of USA Water Polo, Barbara Kalbus continues to give back to the sport today, providing critical history for the USA Water Polo program and overseeing the official scoring table at NCAA Championships and various other competitions.

Andy Burke and George Ratkovic fittingly serve as the namesake for the Zone Service Award; few have represented regional water polo with more dedication and compassion. Ratkovic, stalwart of Southern California and longtime Southern Pacific Zone Chair oversaw unprecedented growth in his zone; Burke, a beacon of Northern California's famed Olympic Club, has remained active in USA Water Polo Premier League and the new National Tryout Series; he also served as the Team Manager at the 1964 Olympic Games.

"Our sport has been blessed with an exceptional group of athletes, coaches, officials and volunteers who have guided it and achieved exceptional performance over many decades," said USAWP CEO Christopher Ramsey.  "It is really an honor to be able to recognize some of them through these awards and, just as important, use their accomplishments to inspire our next generation of high performers."

Winners were chosen through a zone nomination process and then reviewed by a national selection panel.

About USA Water Polo
USA Water Polo, Inc. is the national governing body for water polo in America, overseeing our United States Olympic program as well as 20 different championship events annually, such as Junior Olympics and Masters Championships. With more than 30,000 members, USAWP is also the sanctioning authority for more than 400 tournaments nationwide. USAWP is committed to the development of the sport nationwide. It fosters grass-roots expansion of the sport, providing a national system of affiliated clubs, certified coaches and officials.




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