Australia Water Polo Stuns USA with 12-11 Win in Final Seconds at Intercontinental Cup

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Photo Courtesy: Luis Olaya

Australia Water Polo Suns USA with 12-11 Win in Final Seconds at Intercontinental Cup

By Luis Olaya

Undefeated runs at the 2022 FINA Intercontinental Cup, ended abruptly Friday for both the U.S. men’s and women’s water polo teams at Lima’s Villa Deportiva Nacional.

A power-play goal by Australia’s Blake Edwards gave the Sharks a 12-11 win on Friday, dumping the American men into a semifinal game later today against Canada (4-1), a 14-5 winner yesterday against Colombia.

The win puts the Aussies (4-1) in the other semifinal match against Brazil. The Brazilian (2-3) beat Argentina 12-11 in other Friday action.

Sharks top American men in the final seconds

The Sharks were more focused from the opening ball drop, pressuring an American side plagued by turnovers after previously being surehanded for most of the tournament. Dylan Woodhead of the U.S. opened the scoring with a power-play goal a minute in a half in, but Australia’s Tom McJannett countered on his team’s next possession. Ben Stevenson put the Americans up on counterattack, but the Sharks scored the next two to lead 3-2 after one period.

The next frame saw Australia rack up shots on U.S. goalie Adrian Weinberg (13 saves), but it was the Americans who capitalized on the chances they created; scoring twice to take a 4-3 lead at halftime.

In the third quarter, the Sharks paid an early price for their lack of effectiveness as the Americans managed to extend their lead to 2 goals, thanks to another goal by Stevenson. The Australians tallied twice to tie the game at 5-all before Thomas Gruwell again put Team USA up by a goal halfway through the period.

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This back and forth continued for the final minutes of the period, but in an ominous sign for the undefeated Americans, Nathan Powers of Australia put his team up 8-7 with two minutes remaining. It was the first time USA coach Dejan Udovicic’s side had trailed in the second half of this tournament, and it signaled that the Sharks were a threat to American hopes.

Tyler Abramson equalized the game at 8-8  after three periods, and the two teams traded goals for the first three minutes of the fourth before Powers put Australia up 11-10 on a power play goal. The next few minutes saw the two teams in a defensive struggle as the Sharks and goalie Nic Porter kept the Americans at bay. A five-meter penalty drawn by Matt Farmer with a minute gave his team new hope, and Sawyer Rhodes didn’t squander the opportunity, putting a lefty laser past Porter for an 11-all tie.

The lead didn’t last long. An exclusion called against Jake Ehrhardt gave the Sharks the man advantage with 34 seconds to go. Australia head coach Tim Hammel, in his first major tournament leading the Sharks, didn’t have an opportunity to call time out as Edwards immediately beat Weinberg to give his team the win.

Australia Goals: McJanett, Pavillard 2, Putt, Edwards 4, Power 3, Negus

United States Goals: Woodhead, Stevenson 3, Gruwell 2, Dodd 2, Ehrhardt, Abramson and Rhodes

Saves: A. Weinberg (USA) 13, N. Porter (AUS) 4

Canada Women stuns U.S. with win for first time in decades

In the American women’s loss, Canada (3-1) was down 3-2 entering the final quarter but rallied on four goals to stun an opponent competing primarily with high school and collegiate players—and Olympian Amanda Longan, who stood tall in the U.S. cage, netting 19 saves.

A power-play score by Canada’s Hayley McKelvey with two minutes remaining dealt the U.S. women a 6-5 loss, their first defeat to their northern neighbor in more than two decades of Olympic women’s competition. The loss put Team USA (4-1) in a Sunday morning match against Australia (4-0), the only other team in the last five years to beat the U.S. outside of Olympic play.

USA Goals: T. Smith 2, J. Flynn, E. Ausmus, A. Stryker

Canada Goals: H. McKelvey 2, G. Sohi, V. Bakoc, K. Paul, S. La Roche

Saves: A. Longan (USA) 19, J. Gaudreault (CAN) 8