BOCA RATON, Fla., Aug. 16. FOR five days now, the U.S. junior national water polo teams have played to near perfection, the lone blemish being a tie on the men's side against Argentina. The playoffs are still to come, but with each win, the U.S. is painting a picture of steadfast dominance in the Western Hemisphere.
The USA junior men (6-0-1) added another hash mark in the win column today with a 12-3 win over Mexico (1-6), while the women spent their off day relaxing after a light workout in preparation for tomorrow's semifinal round.
The U.S. men, characteristically, took an early lead on a goal by Trevor Clark. Teammates Rick Offsay, Chris Pulido, and John Mann got into the act in the second quarter to help the U.S. to a 4-1 lead at halftime.
Mexico, still within striking distance in the third quarter, just couldn't muster enough offense to dent the U.S. lead. Clark, Thomas Hopkins, James Shin,
and Brandon Borso buried goals for the U.S. to make the score 8-3 after three quarters, and the U.S. defense threw a big zero on the board for Mexico in the fourth to cap a 12-3 win.
Clark finished with three goals to lead all scorers, and a total of nine U.S. players accounted for the 12 goal output.
U.S. junior men's head coach Randy Burgess is pleased with his team's effort this week, but applauds louder for the sacrifices his team has made to reach this level.
"We've really come together strong as a team this summer," he said. "With how much of their lives these guys have given up, they should be commended. With all the training camps, practices, and tournaments it's been hectic. They could have easily developed a sense of cabin fever being around each other so much this summer, but it's pushed them to be a more tight knit
While the men are working towards that first place trophy, Burgess hinted that the results aren't everything this week.
"Regardless of where we finish this week, I can safely say that we're the best team here," he said. "We're very young, experience wise, but we're talented and very well balanced."
Burgess and his troops have had a great run this week, but it hasn't been all that bad for rookie Junior National Team head coach Amber Drury-Pinto, who was named to the position earlier this year. In this, her international debut, Drury-Pinto has piloted the U.S. women with remarkable efficiency, drawing the x's and o's for the field's most talented team.
Under Drury-Pinto's guidance, Team USA has managed to outscore its opponents 57-9. She credits a balanced attack and outstanding goal play for the lopsided success enjoyed by her team so far, but there's no arguing that Drury-Pinto was the right coach for the job.
"We have a really young squad, but they've done a tremendous job this week," she said. "We've been able to do a lot with these girls in a very short period of time and it's really showing."
The USA women, who have overmatched each of its four opponents, are looking to avoid any letdowns tomorrow (August 17) when the semifinals roll around.
"After we saw the men tie Argentina, we got together and said 'hey.we don't want the same thing to happen to us'," she said. "We can't afford to take anyone for granted, we can't overlook anyone. We have to be ready to battle through anything."
But this week hasn't been all war for the U.S. women. The team will celebrate the birthdays of Kelly Rulon and Meredith McColl tonight.
"We've had a good time here, but we're going to work hard at taking first place this weekend," said Drury-Pinto.
The Team USA men (6-0-1) will rematch Argentina tomorrow at 12:40 p.m. In the pool play meeting between the two teams, Argentina stunned the U.S. by managing a 6-6 tie. The U.S. women will tangle with 1-3 Puerto Rico at 10:20 a.m. The winner of each game will move on to the championship games on Sunday.
USA Junior Men
United States 1 3 4 4 — 12
Mexico 0 1 2 0 — 3
USA: Clark 3, Offsay 2, Pulido 1, Hopkins 1, Shin 1, Varellas 1, Matthies 1, Mann 1, Borso 1
Mexico: Garcia 1, Vasquez 1, Castanedas 1
Player Advantage Scoring
USA: 3 for 6
Mexico 1 for 5
Tomorrow's Semifinal Schedule
August 17, 2002 5th Men(Colombia) vs. 8th Men (Puerto Rico) 8:00 a.m.
August 17, 2002 6th Men(Venezuela) vs. 7th Men (Mexico) 9:10 a.m.
August 17, 2002 1st Women(USA) vs. 4th Women(Puerto Rico) 10:20 a.m.
August 17, 2002 2nd Women(Canada) vs. 3rd Women (Brazil) 11:30 a.m.
August 17, 2002 1st Men(USA) vs. 4th Men (Argentina) 12:40 p.m.
August 17, 2002 2nd Men(Brazil) vs. 3rd Men (Canada) 1:50 p.m.
*All Times Eastern Standard.