Kotsia, Harman To Participate in 2016 Olympic Qualification Tournament
The Women's Water Polo Olympic Qualification Tournament is from March 21 - March 28.
Long Beach, Calif. -
Long Beach State’s Christina Kotsia and Annabel Harman will both represent their countries at the 2016 Women’s Water Polo Olympic Qualification Tournament. Kotsia will represent Greece, and Harman will represent New Zealand.
The tournament will be hosted in Gouda, Netherlands from March 21 to March 28.
Eight teams will play at the Rio Olympics in the summer of 2016. Four teams have already qualified – Olympic hosts Brazil, China, Hungary, and Australia.
Twelve teams are competing in this tournament next week, and the top four teams will advance to the Olympics.
Freshman Harman left LBSU this past Monday to prepare for the tournament. Kotsia redshirted the 2016 season.
“I think it was in February 2015 when I started thinking about taking this year off and trying out for the Olympics,” Kotsia said. “The Olympics is [a] once in a lifetime experience and I would regret not taking this step towards achieving this goal. There is a lot of pressure. I am trying to take it day by day because my mind runs a lot in the future. An Olympic Qualification Tournament is a great experience on its own, so I am ready to get the most out of it. I can't wait for Friday, March 25 to come.”
Greece was placed in Group A along with Japan, Spain, South Africa, Canada and the United States. New Zealand was placed in Group B with France, Italy, Russia, Cuba and tournament hosts, the Netherlands.
From March 21-25, each team will play the other teams in their group.
“Then on Friday, March 25, [the teams] will play the most important game for the quarterfinals,” Kotsia added. “This one and only game will determine whether [a team] will make it to the Olympics or not.”
Kotsia left the U.S. in May 2015. In July of last year, she competed at the World Championships in Kazan, Russia, where Greece finished in sixth place.
In January, Kotsia and her team had their first opportunity to qualify for the Olympics, competing at the European Championships in Belgrade, Russia. The winner of the European Championship received a direct qualification to the Olympics, but Greece finished in fifth and Hungary took the spot.
Despite their finish, Kotsia’s hopes of qualifying are still high.
“Greece is known to be very competitive internationally,” Kotsia said. “As a young team, we are trying to keep up with the successes. We have put a lot of hard work in and we are hoping for the best.
“[On March 11 to 13 of last week], we participated in a tournament in Greece. We played against Italy, Russia, Hungary, and France [and] finished first, so the chances of making it to the Olympics are high. But the Pre-Olympic tournament is a very competitive and tough competition. There are about eight or nine very good teams who compete to get one of these four spots. Everything is possible. No matter how good or bad we perform at the first five games, we need to perform great at the match on March 26.”
Harman has brought a lot of success early this season with the Beach, emerging as the second leading scorer on the team with 24 goals. She will look to further that success and gain even more experience playing with the world’s best.
"I am extremely proud to be ablet ot play with the highly skilled bunch of girls in my national team," Harman said. "The level of competition is elite and all of the teams have put in a lot of hard work and dedication. I believe I am learning a lot from competing against the world's top teams. The intensity of play is incredible, and I will definitely bring it back with me to Long Beach. I can't wait for our first match, where we will put all our practice to work from the first whistle."
LBSU coaches and teammates have been a big support system for the girls.
"I am so appreciative of all the support I have gotten from my Long Beach family," Harman said. "I would love to say thank you to everyone. There is no way I could have gained this opportunity without the support and help I received."
“My teammates and the coaches are very happy for me,” Kotsia said. “I have been through really tough times these last three years and my team is very happy to be watching me getting back on my feet and actually trying out for the Olympics. In February, when I was thinking about trying out for the Olympics, I was hesitating telling Gavin [Arroyo] about taking a year off. He was the first one who told me, ‘Of course you are going to do that.’ His words were very encouraging and supporting. What can I say about Liz [Grimes]? She is one of my biggest supporters. I can feel her love and support. Moreover, my teammates often message me, telling me they believe in me and they are rooting for me. So yeah, LBSU is my rock. They keep me going.”
A schedule of the tournament is posted on the Tournament Website’s Info packet. According to the website, Greece will play Spain and New Zealand will play Russia to start the tournament.
Those interested can stay informed on the FINA website, and clicking on the ranking and results tabs.
As a freshman at the Beach, Harman was the second leading scorer on the team with 24 goals in 15 games. She scored a career-high five goals in the 16-9 win against Marist. Harman just recently had her 11-game scoring streak snapped against No. 14 Loyola Marymount at the Wolverine Invite.
Kotsia has scored 120 career goals in her first three years at the Beach. She scored 50 goals in her freshman season, the second most goals scored that year. In her junior year, she almost reached that mark again, this time as the leading scorer on her team with 47 goals.
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