Water Polo: US Men Edge Russia, 9-8; Women Down Japan, 6-3

July 6. US water polo teams were successful in two tournaments in different parts of California today, the men's national team avenging an earlier loss to Russia 9-8, in a wild affair, and the women's national team defeating Japan 6-3, to set up a Holiday Cup championship game against Canada. The details:

US Men Punch By Russia, 9-8

LOS ALAMITOS, July 6. THOUGH the end of the game looked more like a sparring session than a water polo match, the bumps, bites, and bruises all paid off for the U.S. men's water polo team. Before a crowd of
1,595 at the USA Water Polo National Aquatic Complex in Los Alamitos (Calif.), Team USA dispatched Russia, 9-8, in a frenzied finish.

The final 40 seconds of the game saw Russia turn the ball over on an offensive foul, a game exclusion on Russia's Tchomakhidze, and a handful of small skirmishes in the field of play. But when the water, and tempers, had calmed the U.S. had secured the victory and a little momentum as they head into a six-game stretch in Europe.

The U.S. jumped ahead early and never trailed in the contest. Jesse Smith made the most of a Wolf Wigo steal, burying his first of four goals with 4:17 to go in the first quarter. Russia's Alexandr Erushov evened matters with 2:44 on the clock, breaking away from two defenders to land a skip shot in the goal. But back-to-back goals by Tony Azevedo and Smith helped the U.S. to a 3-1 lead at the quarter break. Erushov's goal would be the only one of the quarter for Russia, as Merrill Moses notched seven of his 13 saves in the period.

With 3:41 remaining in the half, Wigo's lob shot was deflected by Russian goalkeeper Nikolay Maximov (13 saves) but Azevedo was there to clean up the mess, tipping the ball in to give the U.S. a 4-1 lead. Russian captain Nikolay Koslov got the goal back for his squad two minutes later, converting on a man-advantage opportunity to make the score 4-2 at the half.

The U.S. went ahead by three again in the third quarter when Azevedo found Smith at set, who drilled a backhand to make the score 5-2. Russia's Tchomakhidze put away a blind turnaround from two-meters with 6:46 to go in the quarter to reduce the deficit to two and Sergei Gubarev added another with 24 seconds remaining to make it 5-4. On its final possession of the quarter, the U.S. went to big man Ryan Bailey who fought loose from a pair of Russian defenders to score with nine seconds to go.

Early in the fourth quarter, Russia tied the game on goals by Dmitri Stratan and Sergei Garbouzov. But Smith's fourth goal of the night put the U.S. back on top at 7-6 with 4:14 to play. Garbouzov then answered with his second goal of the quarter to knot the game at 7-7.

Wigo's extra-man goal with 3:10 left in the game made the score 8-7 in favor of the hosts. Jeff Powers then rattled home a sidearm bullet from five meters out to give the U.S. a two-goal lead with less than two minutes remaining. With 1:30 to play in the game, Erushov connected on a long lob shot, making it 9-8.

Russia had one final chance to even the score, but an offensive foul with 39 seconds left effectively ended their hopes at a comeback. Tchomakhidze was called for a game exclusion for misconduct following the ejection. He was less than pleased with the call and had some choice words for Moses before exiting the pool. Tchomakhidze and Moses tangled in a small scuffle, sparking several other incidents in the pool. Eventually, cooler heads prevailed and order was restored.

The U.S. (2-2) ran down the clock when play resumed to hold on to the 9-8 win. The Russians, who went to 1-3 on the season, walked calmly off the deck with one thought in mind: Moscow. The two teams will clash again in Russia on July 12 & 13 at the Moscow Olympic Swimming Pool.

U.S. two-meter defender Jesse Smith and Russia driver Sergei Garbouzov were voted by attending media as the Players of the Game.

Team USA 3 1 2 3 — 9
Russia 1 1 2 4 — 8

Individual Scoring
Team USA: Smith 4, Azevedo 2, Wigo 1, Powers 1, Bailey 1
Russia: Garbouzov 2, Erushov 2, Kozlov 1, Tchomakhidze 1, Stratan 1, Gubarev 1

Man Advantage Scoring
Team USA: 2 for 13
Russia: 4 for 8

Goal Saves
Team USA: Moses 13
Russia: Maximov 13

Attendance: 1595

Team USA Notebook:
–Through its first four games, the U.S. is shooting 37% (18 for 49) on the man advantage thus far in the FINA World League. Saturday (July 6), the team
managed only two goals on 13 opportunities.

–Jesse Smith sat out last weekend's series with Croatia with a ruptured right eardrum.

Notable Quotes:
Ratko Rudic (USA Head Coach)
"This was a great game for us. This is the type of game we usually lose. But tonight, we were able to control things on offense and defense at the end of
the game without getting emotional about things. We didn't want to give them any excuse, such as a penalty shot, to beat us. This was a huge improvement."

"It is important that we continue to learn to finish games the way that good teams finish."

(On Jesse Smith) "He had a great game. He is a big part of the future for USA Water Polo."

Layne Beaubien (USA Two-Meter Defender)
"The games in Russia will be battles. But games like this help us get closer. We're much more of a TEAM than we've ever been, and I think that will give us a great chance in 2004."

Jesse Smith (USA Two-Meter Defender)
"We were much more aggressive in our shooting this game. We all did a great job of setting each other up for good shots."

"When the game was tied in the fourth, we just got more intense and more focused. It helped us."

Alexandre Kabanov (Russian Head Coach)
"The U.S. team played well. They didn't hit us with any surprises though. They just played better than on Thursday."

"We are at about 60% of our ability right now. The team just started training together full-time two weeks ago."

US Womem Beat Japan, 6-3

PALO ALTO, July 6. THE United States women advanced to the championship match of the 2002 Holiday Cup with a 6-3 victory over Japan.

A goal by Catharine von Schwarz put the USA ahead 3-0 early in the second quarter, but Japan closed the gap to 3-2 before halftime. Brenda Villa and Ericka Lorenz tossed in third quarter goals to stretch the advantage to 5-2 after three periods.

Thalia Munro found the net early in the fourth quarter for a 6-2 United States lead before Mika Yahagi rounded out the scoring with 2:44 remaining. Villa led the team with two goals, while Bernice Orwig notched seven saves in net.

The USA will face rival Canada, a 6-4 winner over Brazil, in Sunday's championship match. Canada led 2-0 after one quarter and 4-1 at halftime. The teams traded goals in the second half but Brazil could not pull even.

Remaining Schedule
Date Time
Sunday, July 7 6:00 p.m. 3rd place game Brazil vs Japan
Sunday, July 7 7:00 p.m. Championship USA vs Canada


USA 2 1 2 1 — 6
Japan 0 2 0 1 — 3

Box Score

Individual Scoring
USA: Villa 2, Lorenz, Dingeldein, von Schwarz, Munro
Japan: M. Mimaki, Yamazaki, Yahagi

Player Advantage Scoring
USA: 2-for-4 (1-for-1 penalties)
Japan: 1-for-3

Goal Saves
USA: Orwig 7
Canada: Inagi 8

In other action:
Canada 2 2 1 1 — 6
Brazil 0 1 1 2 — 4

Individual Scoring

Canada: Carrol, Illing, Collins, El Sakkary, Horn-Miller, Begin
Brazil: Henriques 2, Bertolucci, Lissoni

Player Advantage Scoring
Canada: 0-for-4
Brazil 1-for-4

Goal Saves
Canada: Gilbert 2
Brazil: Graner 10

Standings After Day Three
Team Games Win Loss Tie G + G – G.D. Pts.
USA 3 2 0 1 22 7 +15 5
Canada 3 2 0 1 13 8 + 5 5
Japan 3 1 2 0 13 13 0 2
Brazil 3 0 3 0 8 28 -20 0

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