Photo Courtesy: waterpolo.teamusa.org/Alan Abrahamson - U.S. women's water polo team practice at Los Alamitos, Calif.: Back row left to right - Forel Davies, Heather Petri, and Jillian Kraus. Middle row - left to right - Elsie Windes, Jessica Steffens, and Juliet Moss. In goal - Tumua Anae.
It's not that Lolo Silver wasn't already a world-class athlete and in what the rest of us mere mortals would consider great shape. Among her many accomplishments, she was the leading scorer for the winning U.S. women's water polo team last summer at the FINA World Cup, with 11 goals.
Then again, the American women's head coach, Adam Krikorian, had promised the U.S. women that over the course of this winter, water polo's off-season, they would -- at his direction -- come to know what it was like to get in amazingly, ridiculously phenomenal shape.
Water polo demands ferocious mental will. That mental edge is rooted in physical toughness. It's at once that simple and that complex.
The U.S. women's water polo team has won virtually everything it could win over the past decade -- with one exception, Olympic gold.
At the close of the 2010 season, the U.S. women were the No. 1 team in the world. To be atop the podium at the close of the 2012 London Olympics, however -- that is the manifest goal, and that's why Krikorian undertook at the start of 2011 a studied journey to take this team where it has never gone before.
It is, indeed, a journey. It can't be anything but. It's essentially a new team, a younger team and -- let there be no doubt -- Krikorian's team.
Which means it's of necessity going to be a long and winding journey. And a compelling study in both coach and team dynamic.
In sports, there can be no guarantee of anything. Beyond which, water polo is just too hard. If anyone in the American camp needs a vivid reminder of how hard, there is always Sydney and 2000 for a reminder -- one goal shy, just one very late goal, from gold.
That said: Krikorian, who came to the U.S. team from UCLA, is quietly but assuredly confident in himself and his means. The players have seemingly bought into his program. Already, there is about this U.S. women's team a buzz, a feeling, a hard-to-describe sense that they are a band of sisters on the road to history.
Perhaps the rest of the world doesn't know it yet.
But they do.
"Definitely," Lolo Silver said at practice this past Friday at their home base, a military base -- for real -- at Los Alamitos, Calif.
"We have all been pushed past anything -- pushed mentally and physically past anything we thought possible. Even the girls who have been to previous Olympics haven't had this sort of training this far away from the Olympics. It has us focused and it has us getting together and it has forming friendships that are going to last