Oct. 26, 2011
GUADALAJARA, Mexico - Former UCLA standouts Courtney Mathewson and Kelly Rulon have helped lead the USA Water Polo Women's National Team to the gold medal match at the Pan American Games after defeating Brazil, 13-1, on Wednesday at Scotiabank Aquatics Center.
Mathewson led all scorers with five goals in the semifinal victory against Brazil.
The USA Women's National Team is led by head coach Adam Krikorian, who served the head men's and women's water polo coach at UCLA from 1997 until 2009. Krikorian starred on the men's water polo team from 1992-95.
Also representing the UCLA women's water polo program at the 2011 Pan American Games, playing for the Mexican National Team, are Gisselle Naranjo, Priscilla Orozco and Sarah Orozco. Priscilla Orozco played at UCLA from 2008-11. Sarah Orozco enters her senior year this season, while Naranjo will be a junior on this year's team.
Mexico will face Puerto Rico in the fifth-place game on Friday.
Team USA will meet Canada in the championship final on Friday at 3 p.m. (PT)/5 p.m. (CT). Canada and the United States last met in a major championship final when the United States defeated Canada for the gold medal at the 2009 FINA world Championships.
"It'll be pretty easy to change gears because we've spent a lot of time thinking about this opportunity of playing Canada in the final," Krikorian said after the win against Brazil. "I think for everyone it's been difficult to keep them focused on the rest leading up to it. It'll be a piece of cake to get focused and change gears to prepare for Canada."
Earlier in the week, the United States advanced to the semifinal round with earlier victories over Argentina (20-0), Puerto Rico (24-4) and Cuba (19-3).
The Pan American Games serve as the team's first chance to qualify for the 2012 Olympic Games in London, England.
Mathewson won the 2008 Peter J. Cutino Award, an honor annually presented to the nation's top female and male collegiate water polo players. She helped lead UCLA to NCAA titles in each of her four seasons (2005-08) and captured 2008 NCAA Division I Player of the Year honors (Association of Collegiate Water Polo Coaches).
Rulon finished her UCLA career as the school's all-time scoring leader (237 goals). She helped lead the Bruins to an NCAA Championship in each of her four seasons (2003, 2005-07). Her 70-goal totals in each of her final three seasons (2005-07) are tied for second-most on the school's single-season scoring list. She captured the 2007 Peter J. Cutino Award, a three-time ACWPC first-team All-America selection (2005-07).