Volume 2:  Number 7          November 1, 2007

US National Men's and Women's Water Polo Players or Coaches

Each month a playeror coach from a US National Men's Team and a playeror coach from a US National Women's Team will give the water polo community some tips on how to play a particular position or a fundamental skill. In turn WPP will post a photograph and concise biography to help the water polo community get to know the players and coaches.

Shooting From the on Six on Five by Tony Azevedo

Here are some tips to shooting on six on five.

The first tip is that if a six on five is done well then you should never be left to beat the defender's arm by yourself. The post players play a key role in moving the defenders out of position. In fact, they are the cornerstone for a great six on five. They must be ready at all times for the ball while at the same time they must be continuously trying to keep the defenders out of position.

If you hope to be able to shoot past your defender then you must be able to move to the open water. Since you are up a man your defender cannot zone in on only you. You must move without the ball. As four is faking I am already setting my self up to catch the defender off guard. Most players know how to move with the ball on the 6 on 5 but only the great players know how to move without the ball.

Legs and body positioning play huge roles in six on five. You must be able to fake with movement and sometimes you must be able to shoot over your defender. Again, you will not be able to do either of these two skills without good legs and body positioning.

The last tip has helped me to score many times and it is "reading the situations". The best players can set their shots up as well as set their teammate's shots up. Many times the defenders must cover so much ground that they get themselves out of position and when they do you want take advantage of this situation with a quick pass or a shot. Reading situations may simply involve watching where the defenders are positioned and shooting the ball where they and their hands are not.

Remember that the key to a great six on five is that everybody works together. Your shooting becomes a lot harder if no one sets the goalie up or gets the defender out of position.


INTERNATIONAL/CLUB: USOC Athlete of the Year three times...Led the team with 18 goals at the 2005 FINA World League and 13 at the 2005 FINA World Championships… Ranked 2nd in scoring percentage at the 2005 FINA World Championships…. Led the U.S. with 15 goals (ranked 2nd overall) at the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Greece including a hat trick to help the team qualify for the 7th place game...Became one of the highest paid players in water polo when he signed to play professionally for Italian club team, Bissolati Cremona...Scored a tournament high 33 goals during the 2003 Pan American Games... Finished as the top scorer in the FINA World League with 12 goals...Led the team in scoring at 2003 U.S. Cup with eight, including three versus Australia… Was named as the world’s seventh-best male athlete in the June 2003 edition of Men’s Journal…Scored 12 goals in four games in Team USA’s first place finish at 2003 French International…Led Team USA in scoring with 29 goals in the first year of the FINA World League, including seven in the season opener against Croatia in Los Alamitos (Calif.)…Was sixth in the league in scoring, but was only player in top six that didn’t advance to the Super Final…Was the only U.S. player to net at least one goal in each game…Leading scorer at the 2001 World Championships in Japan…Led team in scoring with 14 goals in Japan despite playing with a broken ear drum…Scored 13 goals in outstanding Olympic debut at the Sydney Games in 2000, the fourth highest scorer in the world...Selected by color commentator Jim Kruse for NBC’s All-World Team following Olympics...Was the high scorer at the Pan American Junior Water Polo Championships in 1998.

PROFESSIONAL: Led Bissolatti Cremona in scoring for the 2005-2006 season in Cremona, Italy…First in scoring in all of Italy for the 2006 season.

COLLEGE: Became the first-ever player to win the prestigious Peter J. Cutino award four consecutive years...Was awarded First-Team All-American honors from 2001-2004...Named MPSF Player of the Year four consecutive years from 2001-2004...Named the 2004 American Water Polo Coaches Association Player of the Year for the fourth straight season... Mountain Pacific Federation four-time winner... Named co-Player of the Year in 2003 NCAA tournament...Scored 80 goals in his senior season...Shattered the prior record by over 100 goals when he became Stanford’s all-time top scorer with 332 goals…Was named as the Player of the Year at 2002 NCAA Tournament…Scored 95 goals in 2002, becoming Stanford’s top single-season scorer…In 2001, he earned NCAA Player of the Year and All-American Player of the Year…Voted the 2001 NCAA Tournament MVP…Voted Co-MVP of the 2001 MPSF Tournament…Named MPSF Player of the Week
twice…Winner of the Stanford Block “S” Freshman Award…The nation’s leading scorer with 68 goals, which was a freshman school record and ninth-best in school history.

HIGH SCHOOL: Earned All-American as well as All-Academic Team honors from 1996-99 at Wilson High School in Long Beach, CA...Selected to All-CIF Team from 1996-99 and was CIF Player of the Year three times…Father Rick was an assistant National Team coach in 2004 and coached Tony throughout his age group career and during his first three years at Long Beach Wilson. PERSONAL: Biggest influence in water polo is his father, Rick Azevedo, the Men’s National Team Coach…Sister, Cassie, was a stand-out water polo player at Cal State Long Beach and now plays professional water polo in Italy...Favorite musical artists are Frank Sinatra and Bruce Springsteen...Says he plays water polo “to win a gold medal for the USA.”… Admits his most embarrassing water polo moment was when he was holding his MVP tournament trophy and broke it while on the podium….Favorite pre-game meal is Pasta Pomodoro.

2006 ASUA Cup, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 1st place
2006 FINA World League Super Finals, Athens, Greece, 5th Place
2005 FINA World Championships, Montreal, Canada, 11th place
2004 Olympic Games, Athens, Greece, 7th place
2004 Torneo di Napoli, Naples, Italy, 3rd place
2003 FINA World League Super Finals, New York, NY, 3rd place
2003 Pan American Games, Dominican Republic, 1st place
2003 FINA World Championships, Barcelona, Spain, 6th place
2003 U.S. Cup, Stanford, CA, United States, 2nd place
2003 French International, Nice, France, 1st place
2002 FINA World Cup, Belgrade, Yugoslavia, 7th place
2002 Tristar International, Kranj, Slovenia, 3rd place
2002 Eight-Nations Tournament, Nice, France, 3rd place
2001 FINA World Championships, Fukuoka, Japan, 7th place
2001 Poseidon Cup, Athens, Greece, 5th place
2001 Pan American Qualification Tournament, Santo Domingo, Dominican Rep., 1st place
2000 Olympic Games, Sydney, Australia, 6th place

(Biography and Photograph provided courtesy of USA Water Polo)

Transition Counter Attack by Brenda Villa, ATTACKER & Kami Craig, CENTER

This is a joint article on the USA Women’s Water Polo Transition Counter Attack.  Brenda Villa will cover the perimeter player’s Transition Counter Attack role and Kami Craig will provide the center’s responsibilities.


Counter Attack Lanes              Three vertical lanes from goal line to goal line
            Right Lane                         Right Side Line to Right Post           
            Center Lane                       Post to Post
            Left Lane                           Left Side Line to Left Post

Counter Attack Sections        Three horizontal sections
            Create Section                  Defensive Goal Line to Defensive Ten-Meter Line  
            Read Section                    Defensive Ten Meter Line to Offensive Ten-Meter Line
            Attack Section                  Offensive Ten-Meter Line to Offensive Goal Line

Counter Attack Zones              Designated zones inside the Attack Section
            Zone 1                               Two to Four Meter Line: Left Post to Three Meters Outside Left Post
            Zone 2                               Four to Six Meter Line: Left Post to the center of the goal
            Zone 3                               Two to Four Meter Line: Post to Post
            Zone 4                               Four to Six Meter Line:  Right Post to center of the goal
            Zone 5                               Two to Four Meter Line: Right Post to Three Meters Outside Right Post

Counter Attack Lines               Two Counter Lines
            1st Line                             First players in the Right, Center and Left Lanes
            2nd Line                            Second players in the Right, Center and Left Lanes

Primary Counter Attack           First Line Advantage: 1x0, 2x1 and 3x2

Secondary Counter Attack      Second Line Advantage: 4x3, 5x4 and 6x5

Transition Counter Attack       No advantage

Outlet                                           Counter Attack Pass from the Goalkeeper

General Guidelines

  1. The Transition Counter Attack is emphasized as much as a Primary and Secondary Counter Attack
  2. Every counter Attack must be properly spaced and conclude inside the attack section
  3. A properly spaced counter attack will allow more time on the shot clock to attack the defense
  4. The goal of the Transition Counter Attack is to attack before the defense is set

Counter Attack Tactical Principles

  1. Position players defensively that will enhance all aspects of the Counter Attack
  2. 1st Line establishes Zones 1, 3 and 5
  3. Outlet the ball to the line with the advantage
  4. Locate the ball, advantage and the center in the Read Section


We approach the Transition Counter Attack exactly how we approach Half Court Offense.  There is no difference.  Three quick reads: (1) locate the ball (2) the position of the center and (3) whether the defense is pressing or zoning. 

  1. It is imperative to locate the ball, advantage and the center in the Read Section.    
    1. The tendency is to wait until the Attack Section to locate the ball, advantage and the center.
    2. To have an effective Transition Counter Attack it is imperative to know the location of the ball and the Center in the Read Section.
    3. Our Transition Counter Attack requires getting the ball as quickly as possible to the Center without forcing a turnover.
    4. All the perimeter players must recognize if the player with the ball has a direct center entry pass or if the ball will needed to be passed to the correct position for a center entry pass.
    5. Each perimeter player must control their water. 
  2. Transition Counter Attack vs. a press defense
    1. Can the player with the ball make a direct center entry pass?
    2. We outlet the ball the majority of the time to the right or center lane. A skip pass from 2 to 4 or 3 to 5 is an almost sure way to beat a press in the Transition Counter Attack
    3. The perimeter objective against a press defense is to get the ball to the center.
    4. Each perimeter player must be able to Pressure Pass, Draw a Foul, Cross Over Release, Drive and make a Center Entry Pass.
  3. Transition Counter Attack vs. a zone defense
    1. Can the Transition Counter Attack get the ball to the Center before the zone defense is set?
    2. Get the ball to the open player
    3. Player with the ball attacks the open water.  The player with the ball will either; draw zone defender off their line and make a center entry pass, shoot if the zone defender continues to stay back in zone, or ball fake to the center and pass to the next open player.
    4. The player without the ball will slightly move into open water before receiving pass to create an open shooting lane to the goal.


During the course of the game, the center will play defense the majority of the time at x3.  Their primary position at the conclusion of the counter attack is Zone 3 which puts the center in the best position to receive a quick center entry pass during the Transition Counter Attack.  When playing at x3 it is the center’s role to establish Zone 3 as quickly as possible and be ready for the Transition Counter Attack.  The perimeter players will read the position of the center and the defender and what type of defense.  They will get the ball in the correct position for a center entry pass.  It is the Center’s responsibility to be ready to receive a center entry pass when the perimeter player is ready to make the pass. The pass may come in directly or it may be a series of passes before the center entry pass is made.  The Center’s against a press defense must gain and maintain ball side position when the ball is in position for a center entry pass.  Against a zone defense, the Center tries to create a larger area for the zone defense to cover.

Final Thoughts

The Transition Counter is a staple of our weekly practice routine.  The perimeter players and the center must be in sync in order to have a great Transition Counter Attack.  The best way to attack any defense is to attack it before it is set. 


INTERNATIONAL/CLUB: Is the most experienced member of Team USA, boasting a quick and powerful shot that is known throughout the water polo world...Been a member of the Senior National Team since 1996… Led the team in scoring with 16 goals during the 2005 FINA World Championships, landing her as the second highest scorer in the tournament…Scored 10 goals at the 2005 FINA World League… In the 2004 Olympic Games, she scored four goals against. Hungry and two against Russia to guarantee a medal… Olympic Bronze Medalist at 2004 Athens Olympic Games…Scored 10 goals for Team USA at the 2003 Pan American Games, including two in the gold-medal win over Canada to qualify for the Athens Olympics...Had a team-high 13 goals to lead USA to gold at the 2003 World Championships...Was named to the Media All-World Team at the 2002 World Cup, tying for most goals scored with nine...Olympic Silver Medalist at 2000 Sydney Games...Scored game-tying goal with 13.1 seconds left in eventual loss to Australia in gold medal game...Scored the winning goal in the Olympic Qualifying Game against Hungary at the Qualification Tournament in Palermo...Selected as Female Hope for Tomorrow by World Water Polo Magazine...Scored eight goals to lead the U.S. in scoring at the 1997 FINA World Cup.

PROFESSIONAL: Spent the 2004-2005 and 2005-2006 seasons playing professional water polo for the Italian Division I Team, Orizzonta, in Aci Trezza, Italy…Won the LEN Champions Cup Finals in 2006, the team’s seventh Champions Cup and the their third in a row.

COLLEGE: MPSF Player of the Year in 2003...A finalist for the 2003 Peter J. Cutino Award...Finished Stanford career with 172 goals (three seasons)...Was honored with the 2002 Peter J. Cutino Award...A finalist for the 2002 Women’s Sports Foundation Sportswoman of the Year Award...Member of 2002 NCAA Championship Team...All-Tournament 1st Team honors at 2002 NCAA andMPSF Championships...In 2002, she led Stanford in scoring with 60 goals...Had a team-high 69 goals in her freshman campaign in 2001, when Stanford finished second at the first Women’s Water Polo NCAA Championship...Named Division I Water Polo Player of the Year in 2001...MPSF Co-Player of the Year as a freshman...Selected as the College Player of the Year in 2000.

HIGH SCHOOL: Earned 1st Team All-CIF honors three times on Bell Gardens High School’s boys water polo team...A four-time girls 1st Team All-American.

PERSONAL: Recalls her favorite water polo moment as defeating Hungary to qualify for the first ever Women’s Water Polo Olympic Games

2006 Holiday Cup, Los Alamitos, CA , 1st place
2006 FINA World Cup, Tianjin, China, 4th place
2006 FINA World League, Cosenza, Italy, 1st place
2005 FINA World Championships, Montreal, Canada, 2nd place
2005 FINA World League, 5th place
2004 Olympic Games, Athens, Greece, 3rd place
2004 Holiday Cup, La Jolla, CA, 1st place
2004 FINA World League Series, Long Beach, CA, 1st place
2003 Holiday Cup, Los Alamitos, CA, 1st place
2003 Pan American Games, Dominican Republic, 1st place
2003 FINA World Championships, Barcelona, Spain, 1st place
2002 FINA World Cup, Perth, Australia, 2nd place
2002 Holiday Cup, Palo Alto, United States, 1st place
2001 FINA World Championships, Fukuoka, Japan, 4th place
2001 Holiday Cup, Los Alamitos, United States, 1st place
2000 Olympic Games, Sydney, Australia, 2nd place
1999 Holiday Cup, Los Alamitos, California, 3rd place
1998 Holiday Cup, Los Alamitos, California, 2nd place
1998 World Championships, Perth, Australia, 8th place
1997 FINA Junior World Championships, 3rd place
1995 FINA Junior World Championships, 3rd place
Elsie Windes

Biography and Photograph provided courtesy of USA Water Polo)


As a member of the U.S. Junior National Team, won gold at the 2005 Junior National Championships... Won gold at 2004 Pan-Am Junior Championships... A member of the Youth National Team from 2003-06.

COLLEGE: Fourth in scoring for USC during her freshman season making 38 goals from the tough center position ...Named to 2006 MPSF All-Freshman Team… Received All-American honorable mention

HIGH SCHOOL: Holds the Santa Barbara High School record for single-season goals (123) and the most goals scored in one game (9)... Named Player of the Year by the LA Times and Santa Barbara News Press... Named CIF MVP and All-American first team as a senior... Won league championship as a freshman at Santa Ynez High School and as a junior at Santa Barbara High... Won CIF title her junior and senior years

PERSONAL: Craig has not decided on a major... Parents are Steve and Dale... Has two brothers, Jeff and Tony... Favorite pastime is surfing at Refugio Beach. First became involved with water polo through swimming

2006 Holiday Cup, Los Alamitos, CA , 1st place
2006 FINA World Cup, Tianjin, China, 4th place
2006 FINA World League, Cosenza, Italy, 1st place
2005 Junior National Championships, Perth, Australia, 1st place
2004 Junior Pan American Championships, San Salvador, El Salvador, 1st place

Biography and Photograph provided courtesy of USA Water Polo)