Perth, Australia December 15th The USA Women¹s Junior National Team came from three goals behind to beat Australia 10-9 and win the gold medal in overtime at the 4th FINA Women¹s Junior World Championships. Amber Stachowski (Rancho Santa Margarita, CA/Golden West) led the team with four goals while Kristina Kunkel (Rancho Santa Margarita, CA/Golden West) scored three and Julie Gardner (Atherton, CA/Stanford), Ericka Lorenz (San Diego, CA) and Thalia Munro (Santa Barbara, CA/Santa Barbara) each scored one.
"This is such a sweet feeling," exclaimed coach John Wright. "It was a great match, and we are delighted to have won it."
Team USA was down 3-0 in the first quarter, but Kunkel scored two consecutive goals from two meters early in the second period, and Amber Stachowski added one on a power play advantage to even the score. Thereafter, the lead changed six times and eventually went into overtime, where two goals in the second overtime period by Lorenz and Stachowski sealed the victory.
The USA-Australia rivalry in women¹s water polo is solidified at all levels. At the 2000 Olympics, Australia scored on a last second shot to edge the USA Senior National Team and win the gold medal. At these Championships, Australia had two members from that team in the tank, while Team USA had Lorenz.
"Wow! My first major championship after coming close so many times," said Lorenz. "I am so happy for my team right now!"
Team USA entered the tournament as one of the favorites, along with Australia, Russia and Hungary. But Team USA played with a balance of team work, a vicious counter attack, and a suffocating defense that won key matches, including today¹s. The American Juniors were also able to come from behind in the last two matches and pull off the victory, edging Russia yesterday 7-5 after being down by two and topping Australia today 10-9 after being down by three. And while other teams had two or three top scorers in a match, a handful of American Juniors stepped up each game to find the net as in the case of seven players scoring in the 7-5 defeat of Russia in their semi-final match yesterday.
Amber Stachowski and Lorenz finished the tournament with 12 goals each and in the top five of leading scorers at the Championships. In addition, Munro scored 10, Kunkel and Gardner each had 9, Domanic scored 7, Golda and Ashley Stachowski found the net 6 times, Flanagan scored 4, Shafer added 3, and Heinick scored twice. Sixteen-year-old Emily Feher (Santa Ana,CA/SoCal) also ranked in the top five of saves after blocking 44 shots in the tournament.
"This is great! It is such a wonderful feeling!" said Feher after the victory.
Box Scores 1 2 3 4 OT OT2 Final
USA 0 5 2 0 1 2 10
AUS 2 3 2 0 1 1 9
USA: Amber Stachowski 4, Kunkel 3, Gardner 1, Lorenz 1, Munro 1
AUS: Gynther 3, Norwood 3, Taylor 2, Wither 1
6×5: USA 3/4, AUS 2/2
Shots: USA 10/18, AUS 9/28
Saves: Emily Feher 7
Russia hammered Hungary 17-1 to take bronze in the tournament. Venezuela beat Republic of South Africa 7-3 for their first victory, Brazil topped Italy 10-6, Greece beat Canada 8-6, and Germany crushed New Zealand 8-2.
Play by play:
Australia jumped ahead in the first period on two quick goals by Kate Gynther and added a third in the first minute of the second period to go ahead 3-0. But Team USA battled back, and Kunkel fired two bee-bee¹s from two meters and Amber Stachowski added another goal on a power play advantage to even the score 3-3. Each team scored two more goals to tie be tied 5-5 at the half.
Australia scored in the opening possession of the third quarter to pull the Aussies ahead 6-5, but Amber Stachowski answered back with a two meter goal and Gardner put away a power play advantage to move the USA ahead for the first time in the match. Australia¹s Rebecca Witham tied the game in the final minute of the third period 7-7. In the fourth period, each team matched up to the other on counter attacks and held strong on defense to prevent a goal and took the game into overtime with a 7-7 tie.
In the first overtime period, Jodie Taylor nailed down a shot to put Australia up by one, but Amber Stachowski scored with four seconds remaining to tie 8-8. In the second overtime period, Gardner drew a penalty at two meters, which Lorenz took and scored to put Team USA up by one. Amber Stachowski scored from two meters with twenty nine seconds to play to pull Team USA ahead 10-8, and despite a last ditch goal by Australia with five seconds, the USA was able to hold the lead, win 10-9, and capture the gold.