Malibu Sports Spotlight: Merrill Moses, goalkeeper, United States men’s national water polo team

Dick Dornan/TMT

The next stop in the quest by Merrill Moses and the United States men’s water polo team to qualify for the 2012 London Olympics will take them south of the border. Moses, the goalie for Team U.S.A and a Pepperdine University graduate, is among 600 U.S. athletes who will compete in the Pan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico, from Oct. 23-28.

Moses, 34, graduated in 2000 from Pepperdine, where he played under current U.S.A. Coach Terry Schroeder. One of the most decorated players in Waves water polo history, Moses was named the Most Valuable Player at the 1997 NCAA Championships when Pepperdine won the national title. Moses earned first-team All-America distinction in 1997 to go with second-team All-America honors the following year.

He begins his fifth year as the starting goalie for the Americans and is considered one of the premier goalkeepers in the world. After being the last player cut from the 2004 U.S.A. Olympic roster, Moses bounced back to make the team in 2005, and has entrenched himself in the team ever since.

He was selected to the All-Tournament team after his dynamic performance led the United States to the silver medal at the 2008 Beijing Games. Only a 14-10 setback to Hungary cost Team USA the gold medal.

The United States is currently ranked sixth in the world after a sixth-place finish at the 2011 FINA World Championships. The London Olympics begin on July 27, 2012, and Moses and his fellow American teammates are looking to bring home the United States second water polo goal medal and first since the 1904 Olympic Games in St. Louis, Missouri.

The Malibu Times caught up with Moses as he prepares for the Pan American Games next week.

How are things progressing for Team USA as you begin competition at the Pan American Games?

I think Coach Terry Schroeder is doing a great job preparing us. Mentally and physically I think we are stronger than when we were in Shanghai, China [at the 2011 FINA World Championships]. We are working together, training harder, and making our mental and physical toughness even stronger than it was in Beijing. We need another step up and I think Coach Schroeder is bringing us to that step. The Pan-American games are our qualifier for the Olympics and so it’s an enormous tournament for us. I think we will be ready to bring home a gold medal from the Pan-Am Games.

Describe what it meant to bring home the silver medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, the best performance by the United States since the 1988 Seoul Games.

People thought we were a joke going into Beijing, but we believed. We believe in each other and if you work together you can do amazing things together. This team has been playing together for at least 10 years. We will most likely have the same team returning to the Olympics as we did in Beijing. In this sport you need that. You need to know what each other is thinking and the next move you are going to do. The fact that we will be training all year together and not playing abroad [at professional clubs] in Europe, being separated, will make that chemistry and bond even tighter. There is a lot of camaraderie and we have incredible chemistry-I consider each one of my teammates my brother and I would do anything for them.

What does it mean to you to represent the United States of America in international competition?

All of us are very patriotic and it’s an honor to play for our country. When you wear the red, white and blue and hear the national anthem being played, you are not playing for just yourself or the team but for your country. It means a lot to all of us. We definitely want to do everything possible to bring home a gold medal for our country.

Describe how Pepperdine University prepared you for a career playing for the U.S. men’s water polo team.

When I came on to campus as a freshman, I was kind of a ‘nobody.’ I didn’t have a scholarship and walked on the team. When I met with Coach Schroeder in his office for the first time, I told him I would be the starting goalkeeper. I came in and showed my stuff, got the position and never looked back. Pepperdine helped transition me in the speed of the game from high school to college and then it prepared me for the transition of the faster game from college to the national team.

The big turn of events was in 1997 when we won the national championship. That year was a big year to see the bond and chemistry of a team come together. Coach Schroeder was the coach of that team. After we won the championship it advanced my career to the national team level. If you work hard, anything can happen. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do anything.