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MEN'S WATER POLO - USA Men Beat Croatia Again, 9-8 -- June 6, 2001

By USA Water Polo

Cosenza, Italy (June 5, 2001) - The USA men's national water polo team beat Croatia for the second time in a week in a game played in Cosenza, Italy Tuesday night. Jeremy Pope (Fresno, CA/Pepperdine '99), Ryan Bailey (Long Beach, CA/UC Irvine '99) and Wolf Wigo (New York, NY/Stanford '95) lead the USA with two goals apiece.

"This was a very satisfying game," said US Coach Ratko Rudic. "The team played very disciplined on both offense and defense and controlled the game throughout. It was a good indication of what we can do even after a very difficult day of training."

Rudic noted that the team spend one hour in the weight room and three hours scrimmaging against Italy in the morning.

"The team is very optimistic about the future." Said Rudic.

The early going was a seesaw affair. Croatia was first on the board, but goals by Tony Azevedo (Long Beach, CA/Stanford '04) gave the USA a 2-1 lead.
Liticia and Oreb struck back to put Croatia up 3-2. Stephen Lipinski (Palo Alto, CA/St. Francis HS '01), Wigo and Bailey countered with three straight natural goals to put the USA up 5-3.

Letica scored to cut the USA lead to one at 5-4, but Layne Beaubian (Coronado, CA/Stanford '98) to end the third period scoring with the USA on
top 6-4.

Letica scored his third goal of the game to make it 6-5, but Wigo scored from seven meters and Bailey powered in his second goal from his center forward
position to build the US lead to 8-5. After Dogas narrowed the lead to two, Pope scored the final US goal with 2:50 left in the game and a late rally by
the Croatians fell one goal short.

NOTES:

· To the surprise of the American team, the swimming stadium was filled to capacity to watch the only game of the night. To the puzzlement of the US team, Brad Schumacher received a tremendous ovation during the introductions and the crowd continued to cheer loudly every time he touched the ball or made a defensive play during the game. Schumacher and the rest of the team assumed it was because he had won two gold medals in the Sydney Olympic Games in swimming, but afterwards, Rudic, who speaks fluent Italian, said it was because the spectators we told by the announcer that he was related to the Formula One race driver with the same last name.
· Speaking of the announcer, he got everything wrong about the American Team, except when Schumacher touched the ball, awarding goals and fouls throughout the game to players who weren't in the pool.

· Genai Kerr, continues to attract a crowd. Once again, Kerr, the handsome 6'8" goalkeeper (6'10" with his rasta hair fluffed up) was so besieged by young Italian girls seeking his autograph that the team was delayed leaving the pool after the game for almost thirty minutes. The Italians aren't the only ones who have noticed Kerr's charisma. He has appeared on several reality TV shows and is being considered for a staring role in a new series.

· Rudic got into a mild argument with a goal judge late in the game when the judge refused to throw goalkeeper Kerr the ball after a Croatian shot
sailed wide of the cage. The USA had a wide open counterattack in progress.
It seems the goal judge ruled a corner throw, but he was overruled by the referee. Still he insisted on holding up his signal until the counterattack
was killed and then casually threw Kerr the ball.

· The USA will be without Olympians Sean Kern and Tony Azevedo, the USA's leading scorer in Syracuse. Both have returned to the USA for exams. Kern was recently awarded an NCAA postgraduate scholarship.

· Wolf Wigo, after a quick business trip to San Francisco, arrived in Cosenza after taking a five-hour train ride Monday night from Naples. Cosenza is only a hundred and fifty kilometers from Naples, but it takes five hours on the local.