MEN’S WATER POLO – USA Downs Australia, 6-5

Fukuoka, Japan ­July 25th ­ The USA downed Australia, 6-5, at the World Championships. It was a game the team needed to win to keep in the hunt for an automatic berth in the 2002 FINA World Cup.

The two teams battled back and forth with the game tied at every point until Layne Beaubien (Coronado, CA) scored what proved to be the game winner on a power play goal with 11 seconds in the third quarter. Australia had a chance to tie the game in the final 35 seconds, but Tony Azevedo ( Long Beach, CA) made a key steal and the USA ran out the clock for the win.

Azevedo led the USA Team with two power play goals while Merrill Moses (Rancho Palos Verdes,CA) blocked 11 shots in the goal.

"I am quite encouraged by our team's performance," said Head Coach Ratko Rudic. "We are at the start of a new Olympic cycle and have to realize what are our legitimate expectations are at this event. Many teams here have made only a few changes from Sydney, while we have almost a complete changeover. I think we are off to a very good start and believe we will be among the best teams by Athens."

"The Australians and ourselves are hurting the most post-Olympics" said Acting Head Coach Rick Azevedo. "We're two young sides trying to find our identity. Australia, like all Australian teams, play very hard and we didn't get the jump on them. We just had to play smart ball. We were confused about the offensive fouls. We just held on and didn't give up on counter-attack."

The USA Men play Croatia Thursday at 1:30 p.m. (Japan time). A win guarantees a top eight finish and one of only eight at next year's World Cup.

Other World Championship results: Brazil tied Germany 5-5, Canada beat Japan 12-9, Yugoslavia edged Hungary 8-7, Spain crushed the Netherlands 10-5, Kazakhstan beat Slovakia 10-7, Greece edge Italy 8-7, and Russia defeated Croatia 8-7.

Play by play

Both teams showed tremendous defense and hard driving counter attacks in the seesaw battle. Australia struck first on a power play goal, quickly countered by a
power play goal by Team USA standout Azevedo. Australia scored a natural goal on the next possession and took a brief, 2-1 lead before Azevedo returned
the favor on a second, power play goal to tie the game at two.

Australia took the lead again in the second quarter off a natural goal. Ryan Bailey (Long Beach,CA) evened the scored at three on a power play goal.

The USA outscored Australia 3-2 in the third behind goals by Jeremy Pope (Fresno,CA) and Sean Kern (Honolulu, HI) before Beaubien launched what would
be the tie-breaking game winner.

Australia threw everything they could at the USA in the final period. The USA, led by Moses in the cage, stopped two Australian power plays and numerous counter attacks to hold the lead, and win the game.

Courtesy of United States Water Polo, Inc.

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