Water Polo: US Teams Split as Women Fall to Italy, Men Drub Croatia

July 17. IT was a mixed bag for U.S. water polo today in Europe. The men beat Croatia, 11-8, to gain revenge from yesterday's 11-10 loss to the same team, while the women were soundly beaten by Italy, 8-5.

Women: Italy Wins, 8-5
SIRACUSA, Italy, July 17. THE U.S. women's water polo team finished their 10-day international swing with an 8-5 loss to 2001 World Champion Italy in an exhibition game in Siracusa.

The score was tied, 2-2, at halftime, but Italy went on to outscore the U.S. 6-3 in the second half, 4-2 in the fourth quarter alone.

Coralie Simmons led the U.S. with a pair of goals, while Ellen Estes, Margie Dingeldien and Heather Petri all chipped in one apiece. Bernice Orwig had three saves in goal.

The U.S. will now return home to Southern California for full-time training at the USA Water Polo National Aquatic Center in Los Alamitos (Calif.).

"We're glad to be heading back home," said U.S. head coach Guy Baker. "But all in all, I think it was a good trip for us."

Italy 1 1 2 4 — 8
Team USA 1 1 1 2 — 5

Goal Scorers:
Coralie Simmons 2
Heather Petri 1
Ellen Estes 1
Margie Dingeldein 1

Goal Saves:
Bernice Orwig 3

Player Advantage:
USA 2 for 7; 1 for 1 on penalty shots
Italy 5 for 10

Men: U.S. Tops Croatia, 11-8
RIJEKA, Croatia, July 17. THE U.S men's water polo team, backed into a corner by three straight losses, including one on penalty shots last night, lashed out with an 11-8 win over Croatia in FINA World League play on Wednesday (July 17). The win bumped the U.S. back into second place by goal differential over Russia heading into next week's clash with Hungary.

Croatia jumped out to a 4-2 lead in the first half, but the U.S. had collected a little momentum before the break — though not on a goal or a save. When Croatian two-meter man Igor Hinic kicked U.S. goalkeeper Merrill Moses in the ribs on a posession
change in the first quarter, it only served to fire up the team's resolve.

After the kick, which left Moses gasping for air in the net, the U.S. charged out on a 4-0 run that was capped off by a Dan Klatt score to secure a 6-5 lead at the half.

Tony Azevedo connected on his only goal of the night early in the third quarter to push the U.S. out to a 7-5 advantage. A score by Hrvoje Koljanin with 6:07 to go in the quarter, however, might have spent the last of Croatia's good fortune. Klatt drew Hinic's third ejection midway through the period, stripping Croatia of its presence at two-meters. After that, it was
all USA.

Larry Felix, who was voted by attending media as the Player of the Game, connected on an extra-man goal from the left hander's side to give the U.S. an 8-6 lead with seven seconds to go in the third. Felix then buried his second goal to start the fourth quarter on a USA counterattack, giving his squad a three-goal lead.

Scores by Wolf Wigo and Adam Wright provided all the insurance that Team USA needed down the stretch, as two late goals by Croatia were not enough to erase the deficit.

The win was the first on the road for the U.S. in FINA World League play this season (2-2 home; 1-3 road). USA goalkeeper Merrill Moses was sensational in the cage, amassing 17 saves on the night.

Team USA (3-5) now sits in second place, ahead of Russia (3-5) on goal differential. USA is now at -3 overall, while Russia has a G.D. of -11.

It's shaping up to be a three-horse race for the second Super Final berth in Group B, as Hungary has all but put a lid on its trip with a record of 8-0. Next up for Hungary is the U.S. The 2000 gold medalists will welcome Team USA for a pair of games in Budapest (July 19 & 21) before finishing preliminary play here in the U.S. with a two-game set in Moraga (Calif.) on July 26 & 27.

The top two teams from each group advance the Super Final in Patras, Greece from August 1-4.

Team USA 2 4 2 3 — 11
Croatia 4 1 1 2 — 8

Individual Scoring
Team USA: Powers 2, Felix 2, Wigo 1, Wright 1, Azevedo 1, Klatt 1, Beaubien 1, Smith 1, Dornin 1
Croatia: Vranjes 3, Stritof 2, Zubcic 1, Koljanin 1, Primorac 1

Man Advantage Scoring
Team USA: 7 for 16
Croatia: 3 for 11

Goal Saves
Team USA: Moses 17
Croatia: Percinic 5, Pavic 5

Attendance: 1500

Notable Quotes:
Ratko Rudic (USA Head Coach)
"Early on we tried a mixed zone defense that was not effective. When we changed our tactics, the Croatians couldn't find the solution. This game was a very important point for our team. We were able to use multiple tactical situations on both offense and defense to frustrate our opponents. This was a big confidence builder on a very difficult and long road trip. I am still not satisfied with our man advantage situation, but all and all, I am quite satisfied."

Larry Felix (USA Left Handed Driver)
"This was a great win, a huge win for us. It was a team win where everyone contributed and we weren't relying only on Tony (Azevedo) and Wolf (Wigo). This was a total team effort. We still believe we are in the hunt for the Super Final, but know we have four straight games against the Hungarians ahead of us. We need a few wins and help from Croatia against the Russians."

"The key for me in this game was when Igor Hinic wacked Merrill in the first quarter. It fired up the team and when we gave the Croatians a dose of their own medicine (physical play), we could see that it took them out of their game."

Merrill Moses (USA Goalkeeper)
"This has been a very tough road trip and Ratko has worked us very hard. The Croatians came out very physical tonight and we had to match them. This was the best effort I've ever seen our team play. For me, it was one of those days where I was in the zone. The water polo ball was the size of a beach ball tonight.

"Dan Klatt was also very important tonight in neutralizing Hinic. He played tough 'D' and then got Hinic kicked out twice by countering him hard. A turning point for me was when Dan drew Hinic's third exclusion midway through the third period."

Nikola Frankovic (Croatian Driver)
"The game was really tough, with many exclusions. We did not know how to answer on their pressing game, early we lost both of our centre attackers. There is the reason for our defeat."

Veselin Duho (Croatian Head Coach)
"Our reaction to the tough American game was not good enough. We tried to answer with a tough game, too, but this is not the way we are playing. The Americans were physically and tactically better prepared, so they won the game in the end."

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