By Eric Velazquez, USA Water Polo
U.S. Salvages Knot with Northern Neighbors
Canadian Mistakes, U.S. Heroics Highlight 8-8 Tie
Sydney, Australia—It was there for the taking. The Canadians had the surging Americans on the ropes, but just couldn’t finish the job.
Canada took a comfortable 8-5 lead late into the fourth quarter, blanking the U.S. for the first five minutes of it. But the Americans forged what
seemed to be an improbable comeback, scoring three times over the last 1:50 to secure an emotional 8-8 tie and second place in the standings.
The Canadian defense shut down the U.S. scoring attack for most of the second half, resulting in a 12-minute scoring drought for the Stars and
Stripes. But the tide shifted with just under two minutes to play in the fourth quarter, when Heather Moody connected on an extra-man backhand from
set to make the score 8-6. Less than a minute later, the U.S. drew another exclusion, this time on Canada’s Waneek Horn-Miller. Robin Beauregard then took a pass from team captain Julie Swail and shot it past Canadian goalkeeper Josee Marsolais to pull the U.S. to within one at 8-7.
Canada, who to this point had only managed one shot on goal in the quarter, had possession of the ball with less than 20 seconds remaining on the game clock. However, instead of letting the clock run down, Canadian veteran Marie-Claude Deslieres opted to fire a shot goalward. Her ill-advised shot banged off of the crossbar and was rebounded by USA goalkeeper Nicolle Payne, who immediately threw an outlet pass to a streaking Maureen O’Toole.
Marsolais, who had played brilliantly all game long, was now faced with a breakaway situation. Beauregard, who sprinted up-tank when O’Toole did, took a pass from the 39-year-old veteran just to the right of the hole, and fired it in the net with four-tenths of a second remaining, sending a capacity crowd to the next side of excited.
Beauregard, however, was just happy she caught the ball.
“It felt great to hit that shot,” she said. “But when Maureen passed it to me, I just kept thinking, ‘don’t drop the ball, don’t drop the ball’.”She didn’t.
Whereas most people in the arena thought that O’Toole might have capitalized on all the open water she had to score the goal herself, there wasn’t a doubt in Beauregard’s mind that she would end up with the last shot.
“I knew she would pass it,” said Beauregard. “There wasn’t a doubt in my mind.”
O’Toole said that her and her teammates, who have improved markedly over the last year, were not about to let the game slip away. “We are here to win,” she said. “And we are prepared to do whatever it takes
to do that.” Horn-Miller, who scored three goals in the game, saw the game as a statement for the Canadians, but still would have preferred a win.
“We played a good game and we showed the world that we can play,” she said. “It was a high standard game and it was just bad luck in the end.”
With the tie, the Americans (1-1-0) now sit in second place, a point behind the Australians (2-0) in the standings. Canada goes to 0-0-2 in the tourney.
In other games:
Australia 6, Russia 3
Netherlands 8, Kazakhstan 6