Water Polo: USA Tops Argentina 11-2

LA ROMANA, Dominican Republic. March 26. WOLF WIGO (Stanford '95/NY, NY & SF, CA) scored four goals and Tony Azevedo (Stanford '04/Long Beach, CA) scored three goals in an 11-2 win over Argentina at the FINA World Championship Qualification tournament in La Romana, Dominican Republic.

Like yesterday's game against Canada it was a very physical game, but this time the referees called exclusion penalties. Ryan Bailey (UC Irvine/Long Beach, CA), the USA's 6'5" 245 lb. two meter man drew eight of the fourteen penalties awarded to the USA and this was the difference in the game as the USA made good on nine power play opportunities.

"The Argentine defenders were very aggressive and are very difficult to play against," said Bailey. "But their tactic was to stay behind me and push me out of position. When the ball came in they had no choice but to go over the top and today the referees called it."

The game was close at the start due in part to the aggressive defensive play of the Argentines and part to the tentativeness of the US players. "In the first quarter we had a lot of opportunities," said Wigo.
"We hesitated to take shots and when we did shoot we were trying to be too accurate and hit the bar."

"We should have had six or eight goals in the first period," said US Coach Ratko Rudic. "We made many bad decisions, but this is very understandable. We've only been training for six weeks and this was only our fifth game together as a team. We have to get to the point were we don't have to think to score, we just do it."

Sean Kern (UCLA '01)/Honolulu, HI) opened the scoring in spectacular fashion. In a powerplay, Kern, who stands 6'6" on land, soared high over the Argentine defense to retrieve a pass that was almost six feet over the water and slammed the ball into the cage for the only goal of the first period.

The game stayed tight until just before the half, when Wigo scored from six meters out to give the USA a 5-2 lead. It was all USA in the third and fourth periods as Bailey and Kern drew exclusion after exclusion and the USA defense completely shut down the Argentine offense.

"Our team is really playing great defense right now," said Goalie Genai Kerr (UC Irvine '99/Coronado, CA), who recorded five saves. "It's making my job very easy when the team is making so many field blocks."

The USA needs a win over Brazil tomorrow to control its destiny the rest of the way in this round robin format competition.

Notes:

· The USA's Brad Schumacher broke his little finger's knuckle late in the fourth period when an Argentine defender blocked his backhand shot. He is
expected to miss 4-6 weeks. Schumacher, from Bowie, MD, was a two-time Olympic gold medalist in swimming at the Atlanta Olympics and was a member of the USA water polo team in Sydney.
· Genai Kerr made a save out of the pool after Sunday's game when the bus the team was boarding started rolling down a hill. Kerr ran to the front of
the bus, leaped into the driver's seat and applied the breaks. US Coach Ratko Rudic, who was outside the bus thought it was a prank and when he saw Kerr in the driver's seat was furious. "Genai," Rudic shouted,
"get out of the bus. You're walking back to the hotel." Assistant coach Rick Azevedo, Tony's father, managed to explain the situation and calm Rudic down. "I was really scared," said Kerr, "I've never seen coach so mad."
· The women's qualification tournament began today. It is a two team affair with the winner of a best of three series advancing to the FINA World Championships in Fukuoka, Japan, July 19-30. Cuba pulled off the upset of the day by besting heavily favored Brazil 12-11 in overtime.
· Seventeen year old Jesse Smith (Coronado, HS '01/ Coronado, CA) has seen limited playing time so far, but will replace injured Schumacher in the line-up in tomorrow's game against Brazil.

RESULTS

1 2 3 4 F
USA 1 4 2 4 11
ARG 0 2 0 0 2

Goals:
USA: Wigo 4, Azevedo 3, Kern 2, Wright, Bailey
ARG: Alfonso, Tesla
Saves: USA Kerr 5, ARG Yanez 7
Powerplay: USA 9/14, ARG 1/6
Shots: USA 22, ARG 15
Other results: MEN – CAN 9, CUB 8; BRA vs. DR (Late game)
WOMEN – CUBA 12, BRA 11 (OT)
Coming up Tuesday: USA vs. BRA
Standings after Day 2
Place Country Win Loss Tie Goals + Goals – DIF
1 USA 2 0 0 16 4 12
2 BRA* 1 0 0 10 1 9
3 CUB 1 1 0 28 13 15
4 CAN 1 1 0 11 13 -2
5 ARG 0 2 0 1 10 -9
6 DR* 0 1 0 4 20 -16
* Day 2 results not included

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