LOS ALAMITOS, Calif., June 15. THE U.S. women's national water polo team came from behind to top 2001 World Champion Italy, 9-5, in the second of two exhibition games at Los Alamitos on Saturday but also bade farewell to Courtney Johnson, who retired from the national team after a successful seven year career.
The U.S. fell behind early and trailed 4-2 at the half. But the U.S. offense woke up in the third quarter. A goal by Lauren Heineck brought Team USA back to within one, at 4-3, with 4:49 to go in the period and Foothill High School standout Gabbie Domanic leveled the score at 4-4 less than a minute later on a player advantage score past Italian goalkeeper Eleonora Gay.
Italy's Carmela Allucci seized back the lead on a player advantage goal from the right side with 3:15 to play. Coralie Simmons managed another U.S. score before the close of the quarter, knotting the count at 5-5 entering the final frame of play.
But Italy would find the going a lot tougher in the fourth.
A pair of goals by Domanic, who had four on the day, and one by Brenda Villa, put the U.S. ahead 8-5 midway through the quarter. Another score by Villa would cap off the scoring in the fourth.
Nicolle Payne, who racked up six of her nine saves in the fourth quarter, was the anchor of a stifling USA defense that held the World Champs scoreless in the final period.
At halftime, the U.S. held a special ceremony celebrating the career of Courtney Johnson, who retired from the sport this weekend. Johnson, a national team member since 1995, was a part of the U.S. squad that took silver at the 2000 Olympics, the
first to include women's water polo as an official team sport. Johnson, who also serves as the athlete representative on USA Water Polo's Executive Council, recently passed the California State Bar Exam and aims to work in athletic administration.
For more on Courtney Johnson and Team USA, visit www.usawaterpolo.com.
United States 2 0 3 4 — 9
Italy 2 2 1 0 — 5
USA: Domanic 4, Villa 2, Simmons 2, Heineck 1
Italy: Miceli 2, Allucci 1, Lavorini 1, Abbate 1
USA: Payne 9
Italy: Gay 1
Team USA Notebook
The U.S. women will have to double-check their packing when they prepare to travel for this month's Dutch Trophy Tournament in Oosterhout, Holland, which runs from June 27-30. The U.S. will be joined in the tourney by host Netherlands, Germany, and 2004 Olympic host, Greece. More info on the tournament, and wooden shoes, will be available shortly at www.usawaterpolo.com.
Holiday Cup or Bust!
The USA women's biggest annual domestic tournament, the Holiday Cup, will take place at Stanford University from July 4-7.
The U.S. will be playing host to Brazil, Japan, and Canada in the four-day affair in Palo Alto. The U.S. took home the silver medal at the 2000 Olympics, the first to include women's water polo on its roster of sports. Canada, however, defeated the U.S. for the bronze at last year's World Championships in Fukuoka, Japan. The two North American neighbors carry a
competitive rivalry between them, and will clash in the first day's nightcap at 8:00 p.m. For more information on the Holiday Cup, including how to order your tickets, visit www.holidaycup.com.
HOLIDAY CUP SCHEDULE
Thursday, July 4 7:00 p.m. Japan vs Brazil
Thursday, July 4 8:00 p.m. Canada vs USA
Friday, July 5 7:00 p.m. Japan vs Canada
Friday, July 5 8:00 p.m. Brazil vs USA
Saturday, July 6 7:00 p.m. Canada vs Brazil
Saturday, July 6 8:00 p.m. Japan vs USA
Sunday, July 7 6:00 p.m. 3rd Place Game
Sunday, July 7 7:00 p.m. Championship