Virgen's View: USA water polo game a success

Robert Lynn went by two titles when he was introduced Sunday at Newport Harbor High.

The announcer, Matt McLaren, referred to Lynn as U.S. men's water polo assistant coach and mastermind of the three-day pre-Olympic water polo showcase that ends Monday.

The Americans' 12-9 win over Hungary featured just about everything Lynn had envisioned. The pool deck was rocking with chants of U-S-A, fans waved white towels for Team USA and the place sold out. An estimated 1,700 fans watched the game at Newport Harbor.

Four sets of bleachers surrounding the pool were filled. A standing-room-only area was set up and there were a few who sat on top of a wall to catch the action. NBC Sports televised the game.

It seemed as if everyone and anyone who is associated with water polo attended the game. Team USA did not disappoint and the fans continually showed the U.S. men love throughout.

"It was awesome," said Lynn, the head coach and technical director of Newport Beach Water Polo, the club that hosted the event. "This is [what I envisioned]. And, it can be even bigger. I'm very satisfied with the water polo community. All the [Olympic Developmental Program] kids came to support the game. These things are like gifts of knowledge for the kids, to see the enthusiasm and the environment and how the game is played at the high level. It's far and few between in this country. So we have to do more of these kinds of things to promote the sport.

"I'm really pleased with the community and Newport Beach, and that they came together in association with USA Water Polo."

Lynn also has the title of Newport Harbor boys' water polo head coach.

The Sailors' girls' water polo coach was also on the pool deck.

Bill Barnett smiled when he looked at the Newport Harbor pool Sunday. He said the last time he saw such a huge crowd at Newport Harbor was when the pool first opened in 1972. That was when the Americans played against Yugoslavia in an exhibition.

Barnett was happy to see such a big crowd again in 2012.

"It's fantastic," said Barnett, a former coach of the U.S. men's team. "This brings a lot of publicity and a lot of notoriety, which is great. We're on national TV."

John Vargas echoed Barnett's feelings. Vargas, the former Corona del Mar High coach who is the head man for the Stanford men's team, said having the game played here was a no-brainer.

"Orange County, specifically Newport Beach, is the mecca of water polo in the United States," Vargas said. "You should expect something like this to happen here."

A lot of work went into the planning of the event. Guy Baker, the director of Olympic Development at USA Water Polo, said there was more logistics to deal with for Sunday's game because of NBC. Volunteers, many from Newport Beach Water Polo club, helped with the event.

Ticket sales and seating were also important factors.

"It was very successful," Baker said of the event.

With so many details to complete, they left at least one unfulfilled. No seating for print and online media was provided. Our reporter, Matt Szabo, stood behind McLaren at the scorer's table. The Orange County Register's reporter, "Aqua Dan" Albano, took in the game from the rooftop.

I stood with the fans in the V.I.P. section. They were just as loud as the others.

The support pumped up the American players, definitely Tony Azevedo, who scored a game-high six goals.

"I loved it," said Azevedo, the team captain. "We should do more games here in Orange County. Everyone shows up, they are loud, they know the game and they love it."

Twitter: @SteveVirgen

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