USA Women Roll Into Medal Round With 8-4 Win Over Australia in Water Polo

BARCELONA, Spain, July 21. THE U.S. women’s water polo team made its way into the 2003 FINA World Championships semifinals with an 8-4 win over Olympic gold medalist Australia at Club Natacio Barcelona in Spain today.

The U.S. will face the winner of Hungary-Russia on Wednesday (July 23) for a shot at the gold medal game. Hungary is the reigning World Cup champ, while Russia is the Olympic bronze medal holder. The following are the game summaries for Monday.

After failing to get a shot away on its first few possessions of the game, the U.S. finally found the net on a player-up goal by Ericka Lorenz from six meters out with 3:59 on the clock. Australia made it a 1-1 game on a backhand by Jodie Schtumke later in the quarter, and Bronwyn Smith gave the Aussies a 2-1 lead on a counterattack goal at 2:05.

A defensively-themed second quarter didn’t yield a goal for either team until the 3:33 mark when Kate Gynther scored to give Australia a 3-1 lead. Team USA recovered the goal on the next trip down when Brenda Villa found Ellen Estes for an easy 6-on-5 goal to make it 3-2. The U.S. tied the score at 3-3 with 12 seconds to go before the half on a similar play, this time with Robin Beauregard dishing to Amber Stachowski for the goal.

The U.S. settled into its defensive groove in the second half, forcing the Aussies into some ill-advised shots. Beauregard broke into the scoring column for the U.S. early in the third quarter, burying a natural goal from downtown to give the U.S. a 4-3 edge. Team USA captain Heather Moody made it a 4-0 run and a 5-3 game when she found some space on a player-advantage, sinking a lob pass from Thalia Munro at the 5:00 mark of the third. Estes made what amounted to be the play of the day at 1:59, wriggling away from a pair of defenders just in front of the cage to flip in a loose ball, giving the U.S. a 6-3 lead heading into the fourth.

Australia caught some rough breaks early in the fourth quarter, hitting the post hard twice and getting stuffed by U.S. goalkeeper Nicolle Payne on a breakaway. That made room for a score by Villa at the 3:37 point to make it 7-3, USA. Later in the quarter, Stachowski earned an ejection at set with one second left on the shot clock, setting up a long 6-on-5 goal by Lorenz, her second of the game. Australia got a consolation goal from Melissa Byram with nine seconds remaining in the game to cap the scoring at 8-4.

The victory was particularly compelling, considering Team USA’s early two-goal deficit. “I think that they just came out with a bit more intensity in the first half,” said defender Heather Petri. “We knew that we needed to raise the bar and at halftime, I think we did just that.”

“I think we were fortunate to be tied at the half,” said U.S. head coach Guy Baker. “I think we picked it and just started playing. They pressed us really hard and we’ve been working against a lot of zones lately. I think we did okay, but I think we need to play better. We learned more from that game because we were behind.”

Team USA will now await the winner of the Russia-Hungary game, both teams bringing aggressive, pressing styles of play. “We’ll come back to watch that game tonight and use tomorrow to prepare for the next one,” said Baker. “We’re playing for a medal now, so it’s just a matter of what color we’ll go home with.” Team USA will return to action on Wednesday (July 23), but the game time depends on the outcome of the Canada-Spain game due to television rights of the host.

Reigning champion Italy won the second quarter-final on penalty shootout after the game was 7-7 at full time and 8-8 after extra time. Italy scored all five with the Dutch missing the first.

The Dutch went 1-0 on extra in the first minute but as the teams started to grab and play smothering defense, no further goal came. One player, Jorieke Oostendorp had the top half of her costume stripped from her body and she had to play several minutes topless. Italy went ahead 2-1, but Rianne Guichelaar scored the first of three goals from the outside left-hand catch position. Italy led 4-3 at halftime.

Melania Greco took it to 5-3 with a long shot. Guichelaar narrowed to 5-4. Then Danielle de Bruin had her penalty shot stopped by Italy's Francesco Conti with the result that Tania Di Mario scored at the other end 20 seconds later. Oostendorp, keeping her second costume in one piece, scored on extra at 3:18 of the third. Noemi Toth, who scored twice early in the game, was excluded for the match after an illegal entry and a penalty awarded, which Karin Kuipers converted for 6-6 at three-quarter time.

Both sides were grabbing and tearing costumes as the minutes ticked by, until, with just 28 seconds on the clock, Malato took an air ball, turned and scored from center forward. But the Italian celebrations were short-lived as de Bruin made up for her missed penalty by driving down the right and shooting and scoring from five meters out with 17 seconds left. Cinzia Ragusa hit the upright with the last shot and the game went to extra time.

Italian coach Pierluigi Formiconi, so exuberant poolside, gained a yellow card in the closing minutes. Di Mario scored a penalty for Italy and Carla Quint replied from center forward a minute later of the first period of extra time.

Both teams had a timeout in the second period but few shots made their mark. Penalty shots were to decide the game. Italy scored all five but de Bruin, fresh from missing earlier in the game, fluffed the first shot, meaning the Dutch needn't use their fifth shooter. Francesca Conti's two penalty stops earned a deserved victory.

Canada withstood the Spanish invasion and the hordes of fans bashing at the door to beat the host nation 9-8.

Canada opened the scoring and Spain replied three times for 3-all at the quarter. Several extra chances could have had Spain ahead had they not hit the wood.

Six different players made the sheet. The only goal of the second was Ann Dow's lob on extra at 1:23. Johanne Begin took that to 5-3 on extra early in the third before Mariona Ribera on extra and Cristina Lopez from the penalty line levelled the game at 1:03.

The big Spanish crowd was deflated when Canadian captain Cora Campbell lobbed with 34 seconds left and a 6-5 lead. Campbell repeated the dose at the start of the fourth but Merce Valles converted a penalty at 5:55 for 7-6 down. Ribera threw a 12m shot at the end of possession and it went in! Marie-Luc Arpin scored on extra for Canada to regain the lead. Then Merce Valles threw from 10 at the end of possession and it went it! Remarkable!

A tied game at 1:51. But on the next attack Dow was left free at the top and she shot for what was the winning score and 9-8. Spain took a timeout but couldn't gain the extra and tossed the ball to the opposition. Even Monty Python's "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life" booming out through the speakers seemed more than appropriate for Spain's valiant effort.

Play-off for 15th & 16th
France secured 15th place with a 9-6 victory over Great Britain. It was achieved with a 2-1 opening quarter, going to 3-1 and 4-2 by halftime. Vanessa Hernandez scored twice for France.

Laure Gauthreau collected her second goal on extra at the start of the third period. Karine Hales pulled one back for GB but Isabelle Fack tipped in at center forward for 6-3 by the break.

Jenny Ritz scored three goals in the final quarter with Kate Lewis netting twice for Great Brittan. Carol Mohan brought GB to 7-5 down at 3:55 but France always had its Channel rival's measure.

Play-off for 13th & 14th
Kazakhstan proved it wasn't meant to be in this group with such a convincing win over Venezuela. After coming through such a heavyweight group in Italy, Spain and Hungary, Kazakhstan deserved this victory but possibly not the low placing.

The Asian qualifier was always on top, going from 4-0 at the quarter to 9-2 at halftime. Venezuela had an excellent third period, scoring 2-1 but Kazakhstan finished strongly in the final period, scoring five goals to one.

Marina Gritsenko was the top scorer with four goals, all coming during a four-minute span in the second quarter.

Classification 9th to 12th
Germany was made to work for its progression to the semifinals. Japan won the second half 6-3 in what was an exciting match. A 3-0 opening quarter appeared to be the correct score.

Akane Yamazaki drove for 3-1, then Sabine Kottig and Stefanie Schindelbauer scored their second goals soon after. Japan took a timeout and Mayu Mimaki converted off the near post. Germany shot out to 7-2 by halftime through points from Katrin Dierolf and Monika Kruszona.

Mimaki scored on action at the top of the third. Germany took a timeout and Dierolf converted.

Mika Yahagi drove down the right and shot from six meters for 8-4 to round out the period. Then Japan rattled in four goals to two before Germany scored from 12 meters via Dierolf in the last 11 seconds.

Classification 9th to 12th
Greece marched into the 9th-10th play-off with a commanding victory over Brazil in their classification match. It now faces Germany, the team it lost to by two goals in group play.

Brazil took until the final quarter to breach the Greek defense, and doing so in style with four goals. Brazil was in position and took some good shots but the sea of arms proved impenetrable in the first three quarters as Greece stretched out to 11-0.

Once Antigoni Roumpesi scored her second penalty goal for 12-0, Brazil then scored 4-1 with Greece adding the last score. Camila Pedrosa scored from centre forward and on extra for Brazil. Brazil now plays off for 11th against Japan.

(Courtesy: Fina & US Water Polo)

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