1999 Pan Am Games Women’s Water Polo: USA Edges Brazil, 6-5, Advances to Gold Medal Game

Courtesy www.usawaterpolo.com
Winnipeg, Canada – Coralie Simmons extra-man goal with 1:33 remaining in sudden-death overtime gave the United States a 6-5 victory over Brazil on Wednesday and a berth in the gold-medal match at the 1999 Pan American Games in Winnipeg, Canada.

An exclusion foul on Cristina Beer in the two-meter slot at 1:43 gave the United States a man advantage. Team USA put the ball in play quickly, sending it outside to Julie Swail on the left wing. Swail lobbed it back to Simmons at the point, who buried the shot just inside the right post for the victory.

The goal was especially rewarding for Simmons, who scored just one goal in the United States 8-6 loss to Brazil in preliminary play, and who missed a point-blank penalty shot in the second period.

“It was important to me to get back in the game mentally after missing that penalty shot,” Simmons said. “That penalty shot was my chance to defeat them mentally. I should have taken my time, gained my composure. But I rushed it and missed.”

Simmons rebounded with a goal a minute later, and Courtney Johnson added a third just before the half to put the U.S. up 3-0. Team USA’s pressure defense was the key in the first half, keeping Brazil off balance, and holding the Brazilians to just one shot on goal.

Brazil came out swinging in the third, scoring three goals against a lapsing U.S. defense. A breakaway goal by Cristina Pinciroli to lead off the fourth period seemed to be the clincher, giving Brazil a 4-3 lead.

“We knew we needed to play tough on defense,” Johnson said. “We stayed in the press as long as possible and tried to make them work on offense. We had a few mental lapses in the third period and they took advantage of that. It gave them the momentum. We knew if we stayed tough, the defense would win the game.” Gubba Sheehy’s goal from the two-meter position with 4:40 on the clock put the momentum back in the United States favor. The teams battled back and forth until the final minute. Team USA earned possession with 52 seconds remaining and quickly called timeout to regroup.

Upon resuming play, Swail’s shot bounced off the cross-bar with one second on the shot clock. Brazil’s Marianna Secches rebounded the ball and attempted to pass it back to the goalkeeper.

Sheehy made the steal, looked inside to Maureen O’Toole, who worked the inside-out game with Sheehy for what appeared to be a winning goal with 21 seconds on the clock. But the goal was disallowed. The head referee ruled that Brazil never had possession, sending coach Guy Baker into a frenzy.

“I still dont understand that call. Why they let the play continue for so long after the clock supposedly expired, I’ll never know,” Baker said. “Eight seconds of play went by before the goal, then they disallow it. Im curious if we missed that shot if they would have let the play stand.”

The teams played to a draw in the first overtime. Brazil jumped ahead in the second period, scoring an extra-man goal with 1:57 remaining after Swail’s exclusion. The United States rebounded quickly. Beer’s exclusion just 30 second later gave Johnson an open shot from the left wing and a goal into the lower left corner off the post at 1:26 to tie the game at five apiece.

Simmons won the sprint to start the sudden-death, third overtime. Bernie Orwig’s point-blank save at 1:47 led to a break for the United States. A pass ahead to Heather Moody and foul by Beer gave the United States the player advantage leading to the game-winner by Simmons. The United States advances to the gold-medal match at 2:30 p.m. Friday against Canada, 13-2 victors over Cuba in the semifinals. Canada defeated the United State 8-7 in preliminary play.

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