USA Water Polo Gets Revenge, and Gold, against Australia in Intercontinental Cup Final

usa-water-polo-men
Photo Courtesy: Luis Olaya

USA Water Polo Gets Revenge, and Gold, against Australia in Intercontinental Cup Final

By Luis Olaya

LIMA, PERU — Sunday morning the United States men’s water polo team arrived at the Villa Deportiva Nacional pool with a thirst for revenge. After stumbling Friday against Australia on a last second score by Blake Edwards, the Americans had two goals in mind: beat the Sharks and win gold at the 2022 FINA Intercontinental Cup.

Mission accomplished. A taught 7-6 win powered by Chase Dodd’s hat trick and 11 saves by goalie Drew Holland, including one on Edwards with seconds remaining, made Head Coach Dejan Udovicic golden in this run up to the 2022 FINA World Championships in Hungary next June.

Both water polo teams had survived Saturday semifinal matches to meet again in this Cup final, with the U.S. edging Canada 10-9 and Australia besting Brazil 11-6. The festive finals atmosphere included a large crowd that cheered throughout as well as all the men’s and women’s teams who had participated in this week-long tournament.

The first two quarters, didn’t provide much scoring—the U.S. lead 3-2 on a Dodd goal two minutes into the second—but Australian goalie Nic Porter and Holland kept the crowd on their feet with a number of tough saves.

That defensive focus bled into the third quarter, with both teams misfiring; for the match USA water polo hit on only 7 of 32 shots; the Sharks were even less successful, connecting on just six of 35 attempts. After more than 10 minutes without a goal, the Americans suddenly struck twice within a minute to go up three scores.

Dodd beat Porter at the 4:24 mark, and—following an Australian miss with the man advantage—Thomas Gruwell connected at 3:24. The Sharks regrouped to enjoy their own scoring burst, with Luke Pavillard (three goals) and Andrej Grgurevic scoring on consecutive possessions to make it a 5-4.

Dodd to the rescue… again!

More coverage of the tournament

Dodd, who scored 31 goals last fall in his senior water polo season at UCLA, was the star of the game and top scorer for the Americans here in Lima (17 goals). And, he delivered again, slipping a shot past Porter with a minute remaining in the third to give his team some breathing room. When Gruwell tallied his second score less than a minute into the final period, Udovicic’s side was on their way to a second gold medal finish in this pool, three years after taking the Pan American Games final here in 2019.

But it wouldn’t be easy.

The Australians immediately responded, as Pavillard scored 30 seconds after Gruwell, and when Edwards scored on the Sharks’ next possession, Team USA were left clinging to a one goal advantage with six minutes remaining.

Holland and the American defense held off an Australia attack desperate to equalize. As the Sharks kept circling Holland and his cage, the American defense held and the clock continued to wind down

With little more than a minute to play, Australian coach Tim Hammel called for time to set up a scoring play. Blake Edwards, the hero of their victory on Friday, missed inside, preserving the U.S. lead. After Udovicic took a time out with 34 seconds remaining, a miss by USA’s Dylan Woodhead opened the door for an Australian counterattack. Edwards again had a chance at heroics; this time Holland came up big, making the save and giving his teammates gold.

USA Water PoloGoals: 7 (2. 1, 3, 1) C. Dodd 3, T. Gruwell 2, T. Abramson 1, S. Rhodes 1

Australia Water Polo Goals 6: (2, 0, 2, 2) L. Pavillard 3, B. Edwards 1, N. Power 1, A. Grgurevic 1

Saves: USA – D. Holland 11 – AUS – N. Porter 7

3 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
avatar
Polo Fan
6 months ago

Dodgers was a freshman last season at UCLA

avatar
Polo Fan
6 months ago
Reply to  Polo Fan

*Dodd

avatar
Spoon
6 months ago
Reply to  Polo Fan

Dodd is awesome and only going to get better!