New Zealand women’s team qualifying for the FINA World Championships in Budapest, Hungary has been announced. Thirteen players and three reserves have been announced. The team will play two-time Olympic champion USA, powerhouse Spain, and South Africa in the preliminary round from 16-20 July in accordance with the draw announced by FINA (the International Swimming Federation) in February.
The 13 water polo players will join team New Zealand's 12 qualified swimmers at the World Championships.
Led by head coach Angie Winstanley-Smith, the New Zealand squad has had a number of camps over the past five months ahead of the World Championships.
“It was a tough selection process. The girls have been training so hard over the past five months, we have had a very strong squad to select from. New Zealand Water Polo has a lot of depth moving forward, making the future very exciting for this group.” said head coach Winstanley-Smith.
After a convincing 11-3 win at the Kazan 2015 World Championships, and the New Zealand youth team’s 21-5 triumph at December’s World Championships in Auckland, the 18th July clash with South Africa is a must-win, says Winstanley-Smith.
“We must be targeting a top twelve finish which means beating South Africa.”
The Kiwis will first need to put up a fight against Spain, one of the world’s top water polo nations.
“USA and Spain are arguably the best two teams over the last five years, but we have to play the best and there is no better time to do that than on the world stage. The year after the Olympics is a bit of an unknown with lots of new coaches and players. We will focus on our game, study the opposition well, and take each game as it comes.”
New Zealand boasts a number of internationally experienced players, including veterans Kelly Mason and Kirsten Hudson who boast a combined 188 caps for the national side. Youngsters Emmerson Houghton (17 years old) and Bernadette Doyle (16 years old) will make their senior debuts.
“We have several athletes who have played professionally over the past few seasons, a number who have played college water polo in the States, and some coming through our pathway programme making a good mix of youth and experience” said Winstanley-Smith.
The team will play in the Vodafone Cup between 5-7 July in Miskolctapolca, Hungary against Australia, USA, and host Hungary. They will then head to camp in Dunaujvaros before returning to Budapest ahead of the World Championships getting underway on 16 July.
New Zealand women’s team – Budapest 2017 FINA World Championships
Casie Bowry – 45 caps
Alexandra Boyd – 33 caps
Bernadette Doyle – on debut
Ricci Ferigo – 11 caps
Emmerson Houghton – on debut
Kirsten Hudson – 104 caps
Nicole Lewis – 32 caps
Caitlin Lopes da Silva – 10 caps
Kelly Mason – 84 caps
Jessica Milicich (GK) – 5 caps
Brydie Pye – on debut
Emma Stoneman – 22 caps
Antonia Young (GK) – 3 caps
Ema Carevic – 4 caps
Games during the World Championships
July 16: New Zealand vs. Spain - 10:10pm NZST
July 18: New Zealand vs. South Africa - 10:50pm NZST
July 21: New Zealand vs. USA - 4:50am NZST