USF water polo will soon be swimming in international waters. The club team at USF was selected to host the 2003 U.S. Men’s Open Water Polo Championship, which will be showcasing four international teams. The rest of the field will consist of USF and 11 zone champions from around the United States.
“Just having an opportunity to play is huge,” USF water polo coach and director Nick Popa said.
Because the Bulls are hosting the Open, they will be granted an automatic bid in the tournament, something Popa believes is an extremely rare opportunity.
Even though the Bulls will be going up against teams and players that will be in the Olympics, Popa said they are not intimidated.
“We are competitors,” Popa said. “This is how we are going to get better.”
Invitations to the tournament, hosted at the Long Center in Clearwater, were sent out this week.
Popa said that they would be inviting the international teams from Canada, Puerto Rico, Brazil and Mexico, as well as the champions from the 11 water polo zones around the United States to be decided in October.
Popa was contacted by U.S. Water Polo and given the opportunity to throw their name into a bank of several other cities around the country ready to host the Open. At the end of the process, the decision was between Tampa and Atlanta. Popa said that he believes they were given the Open on Thursday because of their success at hosting this year’s Sunshine State Games.
“We are really excited,” Popa said. “This is something we were not expecting.”
Even though this was a surprise for the Bulls, they welcome the opportunity.
Popa said if they had not gotten this rare chance, they would still be several years off from even thinking about entering a tournament such as this.
“This should hopefully prove to be a stepping stone to advance water polo in the area,” Popa said.
Popa will also be serving on the tournament committee with other members from the USWP. As a committee member, Popa will help determine such things as seeding at the tournament and the development of general rules.
The Bulls will be receiving support from USWP, as well as the city of Clearwater. As for the university, Bulls’ Country, a group that increases school spirit and university awareness around the Tampa area, is supplying them with banners, stickers and posters to mark the location and provide a USF ambiance.
“We just want everyone to know that this is Bulls’ Country,” Bob Fiallo, director of Bulls’ Country, said.