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Team USA Wins Opening Day Thriller Over World All-Stars, 8-7 Newport Beach Also Wins in AWPL Debut -- June 21, 2002

Newport Beach, Calif., June 21, 2002—The USA men’s water polo team topped the World All-Stars, 8-7, in its American Water Polo League (AWPL) debut at
Newport Harbor High School on Friday night (June 21). The two-game set in Newport Beach drew over 150 spectators in the team’s last weekend of competition before next Friday’s start of the FINA World League.

Team USA got busy early against the World All-Stars, going up 3-1 by the end of the first quarter and 5-3 at the half. Returning 2000 Olympian Wolf Wigo looked sharp in his AWPL debut, scoring all four of his goals in the first half.

The All-Stars, who never trailed by more than three goals, managed to get off several good shots in the third quarter, but U.S. goalkeeper Merrill Moses had other plans in mind. The Pepperdine alum notched seven of his tournament-leading 13 saves in the third quarter, where the All-Stars managed only one goal.

The U.S. took its biggest lead of the game with 1:37 remaining in the third on a goal by Adam Wright, one of his three on the day.

Wright’s score with 2:55 remaining in the game provided the U.S. with an insurance goal and an 8-6 lead. Israeli left hander Gadi Hadar buried his
second goal of the night with 2:13 to play, bringing the All-Stars back to within one. But a U.S. timeout with 39 seconds on the clock kept the All-Stars from gathering themselves for a good shot. The All-Stars finally regained possession with four seconds left, but Alberto Ghibelini’s shot from five-meters out was field blocked as time expired.

“It was a good victory,” said U.S. head coach Ratko Rudic. “The game was played hard by both sides.”

In the early game, Newport Water Polo Foundation outgunned Long Beach Shore, 18-12, on the strength of Ryan Bailey’s seven-goal performance. Tony Azevedo
and Brian Brown notched three goals apiece for Long Beach in the loss and Genai Kerr tallied eight notches in the save column for Newport.

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American Water Polo League action will continue tomorrow in South Orange County at El Toro High School with four games, divided into two two-game sessions. Tickets are available for $15 for two games, or $25 for all four.

For more information on the El Toro games, contact Don Stoll at 949-768-6905.