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

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