U.S. Men’s Water Polo Wins Sixth-Straight Pan American Title

Photo Courtesy: California Aquatics

The U.S. Pan American Men’s Water Polo Team won their sixth straight Pan Am Games crown topping Brazil 11-9. The U.S. men’s water polo team had already earned a 2016 Olympic Games berth with their semifinal win over Canada, with the victory over Brazil capping an undefeated run in Toronto.

Josh Samuels (Villa Park, CA/UCLA/NYAC) and Luca Cupido (Newport Beach, CA/California/Newport) each scored three goals in the win while Merrill Moses (Palos Verdes, CA/Pepperdine/NYAC) tallied 17 saves in the victory. Team USA finished the tournament undefeated with wins over Ecuador, Cuba, Argentina, Canada, and Brazil.

A relatively high scoring match, the pace started off slow with a first quarter that featured just one goal. Cupido delivered on a strike right as a power play ended with 6:36 to play in the first and Team USA would carry a 1-0 lead in the second period. In the second quarter the scoring picked up in a major way with 11 combined goals scored. Samuels started it off in the opening minute with a power play goal for a 2-0 lead. Brazil responded immediately with goals from Bernardo Gomes and Paulo Salemi to even the game at 2-2 with 6:32 to play in the first half.

Team USA responded with a power play goal from Tony Azevedo (Long Beach, CA/Stanford/NYAC) on the next possession for a 3-2 lead. Alex Bowen (Santee, CA/Stanford/NYAC) made it 4-2 with a power play goal at the 5:08 mark, followed by a Cupido power play strike for a 5-2 game with less than four minutes to play. Adrian Delgado returned fire for Brazil closing the gap to 5-3 with 2:09 left. Brazil then scored two of the next three goals and closed to within a goal at 6-5 with 38 seconds to go in the half. Bret Bonanni (Huntington Beach, CA/Stanford/Stanford) ended the period strong for the United States with a goal with just 22 seconds to play leaving Team USA up 7-5 at intermission.

Nikola Vavic (Palos Verdes, CA/USC/Trojan) started the third off with a skip shot score from a tough angle for an 8-5 lead. Brazil continued to battle back as their captain Felipe Perrone found the cage cutting the deficit to two. Perrone looked poised to make it a one goal game after drawing a penalty but Moses stopped Delgado’s attempt leaving the difference at two. Cupido connected on a power play goal moments later and after Alex Obert (Loomis, CA/Pacific/Sac Polo) drew a penalty, Bonanni seemed to have put Team USA up four only to have his goal waived off after a false start. It was a two goal swing for Brazil as they delivered on the next possession with a Perrone lob shot for a 9-7 game.

The high scoring pace continued shortly thereafter when Bonanni scored a power play goal with 1:21 to go in the period for a 10-7 lead. Brazil kept up the comeback as Salemi lofted a lob shot into the net with 31 seconds to go in the period for a 10-8 game going to the fourth.

Samuels came through with his third goal of the night early in the fourth, building an 11-8 lead with a power play goal. On Brazil’s next possession Gomes scored, cutting the deficit to 11-9. Team USA had a chance to go back in front by three around the four minute mark but Azevedo was stopped on a penalty shot. The USA defense held the rest of the way not allowing another goal from Brazil and the 11-9 score stood as Team USA earned another Pan Ams crown.

The United States went 9/14 on power plays and 1/3 on penalty shots while Brazil went 2/12 on power plays and 1/2 on penalty shots.

USA 11 (1, 6, 3, 1) J. Samuels 3, L. Cupido 3, B. Bonanni 2, N. Vavic 1, T. Azevedo 1, A. Bowen 1
BRA 9 (0, 5, 3, 1) B. Gomes 3, F. Perrone 3, P. Salemi 2, A. Delgado 1,
Saves – USA – M. Moses – 17 – BRA – V. Antonelli 7
6×5 – USA – 9/14 – BRA – 2/12
Penalties – USA – 1/3 – BRA – 1/2

The above article is a press release submitted to Swimming World. To reach our audience, contact us at newsmaster@swimmingworld.com.

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Author: Diana Pimer

Diana Pimer was a breaststroke/IMer at Keene State College and is the NEISDA Conference record holder in the 200 IM. She is currently an Age Group Coach at AGUA in New York City and has covered major competitions for Swimming World including the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, 2015 and 2017 FINA World Championships, USA Swimming Nationals and more.

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