Another Neushul sister is going to the Paris Olympics with the US women's water polo team

LONG BEACH, Calif. (AP) — On the way to the Paris Olympics, Ryann Neushul was taught a valuable lesson by her oldest sister, Kiley.

Water polo, Kiley said, is about more than just your own skills and fitness level. You have to be aligned with your teammates — when and where they want the ball, along with the ability to anticipate their next move.

“Hearing her and having her hold me to standards like that was difficult but really I think has made me the player I am today,” Ryann Neushul said.

And she is quite the player today, a worthy addition to a legacy that extends beyond her family to the waters of Santa Barbara County in Southern California.

Following in the footsteps of Kiley, 31, who won gold in 2016 and was inducted into the USA Water Polo Hall of Fame on June 7, and Jamie Neushul, 29, another sister who won gold in 2021, Ryann Neushul makes her Olympic debut this summer.

“She is as resilient as they come. Just incredibly tough-minded,” U.S. coach Adam Krikorian said. “And then just has, like all the Neushuls, just has a great knack for the game. I mean just is making winning plays. Hard to describe sometimes, but she just knows where to be.”

The Neushul sisters are among an impressive group of competitors with Santa Barbara ties who have played a role in a run of three consecutive gold medals for the U.S. women at the Olympics. The list also includes Kami Craig, Sami Hill and Paige Hauschild. Amanda Longan is from Moorpark but played club ball for Santa Barbara 805.

Kodi Roberts and Abbi Hill, Sami's two younger sisters, both trained with the national team, and U.S. assistant coach Molly Cahill also grew up in the Santa Barbara area.

“Just that closeness, that tight-knit community there is really what makes the water polo so great,” Ryann Neushul said, "and everyone is so passionate about it. They want to win. They want to challenge, you know, Southern California, these giant hubs of great water polo.

“I think that’s what made me love water polo was just growing up in that environment.”

Her mother, Cathy, is a major part of that Santa Barbara success. Cathy played and coached at UC Santa Barbara. Her husband, Peter, also played for the Gauchos, helping the men's team win the 1979 NCAA title.

As a youth coach, to go along with being a physical therapist, Cathy had a hand in the development of several of the top Santa Barbara players. She coached each of her three daughters, a dynamic that admittedly was difficult for all of them at times.

“They'll tell you to this day, it was hard on them,” Cathy Neushul said. "But I don't think they would trade it. Maybe, but I don't think so. ... I understand movement well, and I think they appreciate the foundation, along with everybody that has come through our club. And there was a lot of other coaches who helped along the way to shape them, who they are. It wasn't just me.”

Ryann Neushul, 24, said the situation was “challenging” when she was younger but praised her mother's ability to coach the fundamentals of the game.

“My mom was, I think is the best teacher in the world at those things,” she said.

Ryann, just like Kiley and Jamie before her, plays college ball for Stanford. She won three NCAA titles before she redshirted this year to try out for Paris.

Ryann also took a redshirt year when she joined Kiley and Jamie with the national team before the Tokyo Olympics. But Kiley ended up retiring and Ryann did not make the final roster for the Games — something she expected given her age and experience level.

This time around, it's her turn at the Olympics. And she is taking on a prominent role as a center defender on a U.S. squad that is young up the middle.

Neushul's new position puts her right in front of the U.S. goalie, in the most physical area of the pool. Neushul is listed as 5-foot-7 on the American roster, and center defenders typically have more size.

“She's not the biggest or tallest, which is usually a prerequisite to be a fairly good center defender,” Krikorian said. “But she makes up for it with her tenacity and her quickness and her resiliency.”


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