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Olympic goalie Betsey Armstrong joins Sun Devil water polo staff

October 14, 2008

Todd Clapper, the head coach of the Arizona State University water polo program, has announced the addition of both Betsey Armstrong and Mark Lawrence to the Sun Devil coaching staff for the 2009 season. Armstrong, who led the United States women’s national team to a silver medal at the Beijing Olympics over the summer, will serve as the team’s Director of Water Polo Operations while Lawrence, a three-year player in the Australian National League, will serve as a volunteer assistant coach.

“I am excited to be able to add two very talented players to our coaching staff as we continue to work toward the goal of establishing Arizona State as one of the top teams in the nation,” Clapper said. “Both Betsey and Mark bring a lot of knowledge, skill and enthusiasm to the program and I am confident their abilities will help this program continue to improve and climb both the MPSF and NCAA rankings in the years to come.”

Armstrong’s duties as Director of Water Polo Operations will consist of running the day-to-day operations of the program, including meetings, travel and practice set up, while also working with the program’s goalies in the water at practice. Lawrence will also assist with practices and other training sessions throughout the year.

A volunteer coach for the Sun Devils in 2006 before earning a place on the U.S. National Team roster, Armstrong returns to Tempe this year after helping U.S. Women’s National Team to the Silver Medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. In the Summer Games, Armstrong led the Americans to a 2-0-1 record in the preliminary rounds as she halted 27 shots, including 10 each in a 9-9 tie with Italy and 12-7 defeat of Russia. She then stopped eight shots in USA’s 9-8 defeat of Australia in the semifinals. In the gold medal game, she halted 14 shots, but the Americans were edged, 9-8, by the Netherlands.

In her three years with the American side, Armstrong has played a pivotal role in keeping her team at or near the top of the world rankings and world tournament standings. In the past three FINA World League Super Finals, Armstrong was named the MVP Goalkeeper in 2008 while helping the Americans to a silver medal after leading the team to gold medals in both 2006 and 2007. She also was selected as the MVP Goalkeeper at the 2007 FINA World Championships as she led the Americans to the gold medal before the U.S. won gold at the Pan-Am Games. Following her World Championship effort, she also was named the March 2007 runner-up for the U.S. Olympic Committee’s Female Athlete of the Month award.

Prior to her senior team international play, Armstrong was a four-year starter in the cage for the University of Michigan and earned All-America recognition all four years she played (2002, 2003, 2004 and 2005). A 2005 Big Ten Scholar Athlete and two-time Michigan Academic Achievement Award recipient (2002, 2005), Armstrong also was one of three finalists for the 2004 Pete Cutino Player of the Year Award, which is annually given to the top female collegiate water polo player in the nation. She graduated from UM in April of 2005 with her B.A. in English. Prior to her collegiate days, she was a two-year member of the U.S. Junior National Team (2000-01) and was the starting goalie at the 2000 Junior Pan-Am Games.

Armstrong has been and continues to remain active in the water polo community, both in and out of the pool. She is currently a ‘Right to Play’ Ambassador as well as a PACE Clinic Coach for USA Water Polo (since 2006). A member of three USA Top 40 Festivals (2004, 2006, 2007) that brings together the top talent in the nation, Armstrong spent three years serving as a volunteer at the Motts Children’s Hospital.

Lawrence comes to Tempe following a one year stint as the men’s assistant head coach at Ohlone Junior College in Fremont, Calif., the same school he played for between 1999-01. Following his graduation from Mission San Jose High School (Fremont, Calif.) in 1999, Lawrence attended OJC where was twice selected as a first-team all-conference honoree while also earning the conference’s MVP award as well as the OJC Athlete of Year honor as a sophomore.

In 2001, Lawrence received a scholarship from Queens College in New York City where he competed for two seasons. During his time in NYC, he helped QC to the NCAA Final Four as a senior with his squad placing third nationally. Over that same time period, Lawrence also competed for the USA East Coast National Team in the Premier League.

Following his collegiate playing days, he returned home and served as the head coach for men’s and women’s water polo and swimming at MSJHS from 2003-05. While managing over 100 student-athletes, including their competition and training schedules, Lawrence also assisted in starting the Renegade Water Polo Aquatic Team. After three years with both programs, Lawrence returned to the pool for two years in Queensland, Australia, as he competed in the Australian National League while also working with the Warrior Water Polo Club (Brisbane, Australia) for two seasons as a coach and referee.