By Bruce Wigo
BEIJING, China, August 15. IN the last session, the Russians were eliminated from medal contention by the upstart team from China. The question tonight was how the Russians, reigning World League and European Champions, would respond. Would they come out fighting to be spoilers with something to prove against the U.S.? Or would their nightmare of elimination continue?
The answer was written on the faces of the Russian players in the warm-up and it showed in their play. At 6:49 of the first period, the USA's Brenda Villa scored on a power play goal, starting what would be an avalanche of goals from Natalie Golda, Brittany Hayes, Jessica Steffens, Alison Gregorka and Moria van Norma. The 6 – 0 lead led to dominating 12 – 7 win and an automatic bye into the semi-finals.
Eight different players scored for the USA while. Elizabeth Armstrong and Jamie Hipp combined for 11 saves.
The Americans now have three days off to prepare for the semi-final match, a decided advantage in a sport as physically demanding as water polo.
In Group B play, Australia's Bronwen Knox scored four goals, in a win over the Netherlands. Should Hungary lose or tie Greece later tonight, Australia, with five points, would advance to the semi-finals atop the group. If the Hungarians win, they will advance with the bye.
The other game in group A, between Italy and China, will determine who advance to the quarterfinals in second and third position.