USA Water Polo Opens FINA Intercontinental Cup with 10-9 Win Over Canada in Rematch of 2019 PanAm Final

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Photo Courtesy: Luis Olaya

USA Water Polo Opens FINA Intercontinental Cup with 10-9 Win Over Canada in Rematch of 2019 PanAm Final

By Luis Olaya

LIMA — In front of an enthusiastic crowd on the opening day of the 2022 FINA International Cup at the Villa Deportiva Nacional pool, the United States men’s water polo team edged Canada 10-9 in a thrilling match that came down to the final seconds, when Dylan Woodhead scored the winner for the Americans.

It was the only score for Woodhead, a member of the U.S. side that qualified for the Tokyo Olympics by virtue of an 18-6 over the Canadians in the 2019 Pan American Games gold medal match three years ago in this very same pool.

Tyler Abramson, Tommy Gruwell and Ben Stevenson led the US  water polo team with two goals apiece, For Canada, Jeremie Cote, Matthew Halajian, Jérémie Blanchard, and Maxime Schapowal each scored twice.

Canada came out primed for revenge after the thrashing administered by the United States in 2019. But it was the USA Water Polo who scored first and ended the quarter with a 4-2 lead. The Canadians countered, not letting the more experienced Americans—featuring Olympians Hannes Daube, Drew Holland, Stevenson and Woodhead—get too far ahead, trailing 6-5 at the half.

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Photo Courtesy: Luis Olaya The third quarter was the best moment for the Canadians where they maintained a one-goal deficit. The US team played tentatively, opening opportunities for Canada, who finally even the score late in the final period.

That’s when the experience of USA Water Polo Head Coach Dejan Udovicic—now in his ninth year leading the USNT, showed. After an exclusion against Canada, Udovicic took a timeout to set up the 6 on 5 opportunity that Woodhead converted with 10 seconds remaining, giving the Americans a sixth-straight victory over their northern neighbors.

The goalie play from both sides was impressive, as Holland (16 saves) bested Milan Radenovic, his Canadian counterpart. The U.S. drew 15 exclusions, converting on five of them, while Canada went one of seven with the man advantage.

It was a great water polo match to close the first day of the Intercontinental Water Polo Cup, which comes to Peru for the first time ever and will continue all week in the Villa Deportiva Nacional.

Canada goals: Blanchard (2), Cote (2), Halajian (2), Schapowal (2), Spooner 1

USA goals: T. Abramson (2), B. Stevenson (2), T. Gruwell (2), C. Dodd 1, M. Farmer 1, D. Woodhead 1, J. Ehrhardt 1