Team USA Water Polo Olympians Kami Craig & Courtney Mathewson Announce Retirement

Photo Courtesy: Andrew P. Scott-USA TODAY Sports

It is the end of an era in women’s water polo as Olympic champions Kami Craig(Santa Barbara, CA/USC/NYAC) and Courtney Mathewson (Anaheim Hills, CA/UCLA/NYAC) have announced their retirement from the USA Water Polo Women’s National Team. The two will be honored later this month during the USA Women’s National Team exhibition series against China and the Netherlands. On Saturday, December 16, Craig will be recognized at her alma mater, Santa Barbara High School, when Team USA takes on the Netherlands at 2pm pt. On Tuesday, December 19Mathewson, an Orange County native, will be celebrated at Foothill High School in Tustin, California when the United States hosts China at 7pm pt.

Tickets for both matches are on sale and can be purchased by clicking here. For more information on the entire four game series hosted by the USA Women’s Senior National Team December 14-19click here.

The longest tenured member of Team USA at the 2016 Olympics, Kami Craig wraps up a 13-year career with Team USA as one of the most dominant centers the international game has ever seen. A three-time Olympic medalist and three-time World Champion, Craig was a key force in the emergence of Team USA as a super power in the world of women’s water polo.

“It is nearly impossible to put into words what it has meant to me to be a part of the Women’s Senior National team over the last 13 years. To have the opportunity to represent my country, the USA, playing the sport I love, and competing with a group of individuals who share the same passion and fire will be a time in my life I will forever cherish,” said Craig. “While winning has always been a huge motivation for me, it has been the time I spent training with my teammates that made showing up to the pool day in and day out not only possible, but enjoyable. I am forever grateful for the laughs, tears and experiences I shared with my teammates. My teammates and coaches are like family – we share this unbreakable bond that will last a lifetime. I would like to thank the many incredible people who have loved and supported me throughout this journey. Besides my coaches and teammates, I would like to thank the fans who brought such joy and positive energy to the pool deck and cheered on the team from their living rooms when they couldn’t make it to the games. Lastly, I would especially like to thank my parents who sacrificed everything to make my dream of being an Olympic water polo player a reality.”

“Kami will undoubtedly go down as one of the greatest, if not the greatest, center to have ever played this game. Her combination of strength, explosiveness, and skill were a nightmare for our opponents to deal with, not to mention for our very own defenders on a daily basis. We knew we could always count on Kami. Every game, every possession. Her consistency provided us with some comfort and confidence to be able to play freely and was a byproduct of the professionalism she carried throughout her entire career, spanning a remarkable three separate quadrennials. Behind the scenes, she worked hard to build relationships and make connections with and between people that helped us become the strongest TEAM in the world. She held us all accountable, staff included, for doing things with a purpose, striving to be better daily, being more open and honest with each other, and quite simply, doing things the right way,” said Adam Krikorian, Women’s Senior National Team Head Coach and Craig’s national team head coach (2009-16).

Courtney Mathewson brought precision shooting and a competitive edge to a six-year career with the USA Women’s National Team that coincided with one of the most successful runs in team sports history. Out of 13 major FINA competitions during Mathewson’s career she won a gold medal in all but three. That includes Olympic Games, FINA World Championships and FINA World League Super Finals. A two-time Olympic champion Mathewson overcame a variety of injuries to become an essential piece of Team USA’s perimeter attack.

“To be a part of the best women’s water polo team in the world for the past seven years has been a dream come true. Two Olympic Gold Medals and a World Championship are more than I ever could have imagined when I started playing water polo in Anaheim Hills over 20 years ago,” said Mathewson. “I’ll miss those big, pressure filled moments but most importantly I’ll miss my teammates, coaches and the rest of my water polo family. We worked hard every day to be the best and the bond and love that comes from those efforts can’t be replicated. Thank you to my family, teammates and to all the people that have supported me on my journey from SOCAL to Canyon, from UCLA to USA Water Polo. You are truly appreciated. I look forward to cheering on the future teams of USA women’s water polo as they continue the great legacy that I have been privileged to be a part of. Go USA!”

“Courtney’s humble approach and quiet confidence were uniquely combined with a determination and competitiveness that was unmatched. These traits aligned with our program’s values therefore magnifying the benefit of her leadership on a daily basis. Her deceptive and powerful perimeter shot overshadowed her fierce and reliable defense. She is what competitive greatness is defined as, scoring a countless number of goals during the biggest of moments. Courtney’s last four years have been riddled with injuries but she persevered, continuing to display her mental toughness by training, leading, and delivering like she always has. On a personal level, our time together has spanned the last 13 years. We’ve celebrated the highest of times, have fought through our own battles, and in many ways, have grown up side by side. The team and I will miss her dearly, but we know that the respect, support and love will never fade on either end. And although there is some sadness as her athletic career comes to an end, we couldn’t be more thrilled for both Courtney and Chris, as they begin their blessed journey as terrific parents,” added Krikorian, Mathewson’s collegiate head coach (2005-2008) and national team head coach (2010-2016).

More On Kami Craig:
Fresh off a FINA World Championship in 2007, Craig was the youngest member of Team USA at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. There, the reserve center kicked off what would be three straight trips to the Olympic podium helping the United States to a silver medal. As her National Team career took off Craig established herself as the top player in the college game. She was twice named the recipient of the Cutino Award as the player of the year and led USC to an NCAA crown in 2010.

On the international circuit she continued to thrive. A second consecutive World Championship followed in 2009 as Craig took over the starting center position. In 2010 she added a FINA World Cup crown, the first for the program in 31 years. In 2012 Team USA reached an all-time high securing their first ever Olympic gold medal where Craig scored two pivotal overtime goals in a semifinal victory over Australia. She continued on through the next quadrennial piling up gold medals including three more FINA World League Super Final crowns from 2014-2016 to finish her career with nine Super Final gold medals. In 2015 Craig and Team USA were World Champions again as they prepared for the 2016 Olympic Games. 2016 marked another year of undisputed excellence and a fitting finish to Craig’s career. She helped the United State to gold at the Olympic Qualification tournament, earning a spot in Rio, plus another gold at the Super Final. She capped it all off with a second consecutive Olympic gold medal at the 2016 Games where Team USA went undefeated on the way to the title.

Career Highlights:
2x Olympic Gold Medalist (2012, 2016)
1x Olympic Silver Medalist (2008)
3x FINA World Champion (2007, 2009, 2015)
2x FINA World Cup Gold Medalist (2010, 2014)
9x FINA World League Super Final Gold Medalist (2006-2007, 2009-2012, 2014-2016)
3x Pan American Games Gold Medalist (2007, 2011, 2015)
1x NCAA Champion (USC) (2010)
2x Cutino Award Recipient (USC) (2009, 2010)
Pac-12 All-Century Team Selection

More On Courtney Mathewson:
Mathewson joined the USA Women’s Senior National Team in 2010 fresh off a stellar collegiate career at UCLA that saw four consecutive NCAA titles and Cutino Award honors in 2008. Her winning ways fit nicely on Team USA as her first full year with the team saw gold at the FINA World League Super Final and FINA World Cup, the first such title since 1979.

She followed that with a heroic performance during the 2011 Pan American Games. Down four goals in the second half of the gold medal match against Canada, Mathewson scored three crucial goals to ignite a comeback. Team USA would eventually win the contest in a 20-round shootout to punch a ticket to the 2012 Olympic Games. Mathewson continued the gold medal run in 2012 claiming another Super Final crown plus her first Olympic gold medal. Playing through injury Mathewson added four goals in London. She missed time in early 2014 to recover from surgery but returned still very much a key piece of Team USA helping the squad to a second straight World Cup crown.

The success continued into 2015 where Mathewson and Team USA earned gold at the FINA World League Super Final and FINA World Championships. That set the stage for a dominant run in 2016 where Mathewson and Team USA turned in a 40-2 record while claiming a second straight Olympic gold medal and top finishes at the Olympic Qualification Tournament and FINA World League Super Final. Mathewson and husband Chris welcomed a new member to their family with the birth of daughter Aspen Rae Morinello on September 12.

Career Highlights:
2x Olympic Gold Medalist (2012, 2016)
1x FINA World Champion (2015)
2x FINA World Cup Gold Medalist (2010, 2014)
6x FINA World League Super Final Gold Medalist (2010-2012, 2014-2016)
2x Pan American Games Gold Medalist (2011, 2015)
4x NCAA Champion (UCLA) (2005-2008)
1x Cutino Award Recipient (UCLA) (2008)
Pac-12 All-Century Team Selection

Press release courtesy of Team USA Water Polo

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Author: James Sica

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James Sica is the Men and Women's Assistant Coach at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He has been an assistant coach at CMU in Pittsburgh, PA (2015-2017), a volunteer assistant coach with the Harvard women’s program (2014-2015) and an assistant with the Ithaca College men's program (2012-2014).

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