Palo Alto Weekly

Sports - July 26, 2013

USA women start off perfect in water polo

Local players contribute in big way to a 3-0 start; American men split their opening matches in Barcelona, Spain

by Keith Peters

The face of the USA Women's National Team has changed since it captured the gold medal in water polo at the 2012 Summer Games in London, with veteran players like Brenda Villa retiring.

While the team's makeup has changed, the results have not. The Americans, in fact, have completed group play at the FINA World Championships with a perfect 3-0 record following a 16-4 victory over Great Britain on Thursday in Barcelona, Spain.

Sacred Heart Prep grad KK Clark of Menlo Park scored three goals for the U.S. and Tumua Anae posted 14 saves in the cage.

"It was a good match for us because Great Britain is a really good opponent and they do a lot of things that other teams don't do," said Clark, a UCLA grad. "So, it was important for us to stay focused throughout the entire game, which I think we did a really good job of."

The U.S. women now move on the quarterfinals, where they likely will meet Brazil on Saturday. That match will stream live on UniversalSports.com and air on delay on Universal Sports at 3:30 p.m. (PT).

Team USA started off the match strong and built a 4-0 lead after the first period. Clark scored first from the outside followed by another perimeter shot from Stanford grad Lolo Silver. Kami Craig got free on the counter attack for a tally and Jillian Kraus buried a shot from deep to go up 4-0.

The second period started with more of the same after the Americans drew a penalty, their first of three on the day, and Kelly Rulon converted for a 5-0 lead. Great Britain came to life with two straight scores to draw within 5-2 with 1:16 left in the half. Stanford grad Melissa Seidemann responded on the next possession with an outside shot for a 6-2 lead at intermission.

Another drawn penalty started the third period for Team USA and Stanford's Maggie Steffens converted for a 7-2 lead. She followed that with a natural goal less than a minute later for an 8-2 lead.

Holding a 9-3 lead entering the final period, the USA outscored Great Britain, 7-1. Clark connected on a perimeter shot for a 13-3 lead with 3:19 remaining in the match.

"It's a tough game for both teams to be inspired, because both teams know their standings in the group already, but we tried to focus on playing the game the way we want to play the game," said U.S. head coach Adam Krikorian.

In Round 2 on Tuesday, the U.S. women picked up their second straight victory and secured first place in their group with a 10-8 win over Canada. Silver and Seidemann each scored twice for the Americans while Betsey Armstrong had seven saves in goal.

"It was kind of a struggle towards the end but we had a good first half so that was good," said Stanford's Kiley Neushul, who scored once. "It was hard, every game is hard at this level. That's a big rival, Canada vs the USA, it's always fun to play against them."

Team USA built a 9-3 lead midway through the third period, only to see Canada close to within two with 5:43 to play.

"It was a good win against a quality opponent and obviously a great start for us that certainly helped," said Krikorian. "I do think we could play much better at the end of the game than we did. We got a little too conservative. We expect every time we play Canada to be a one- or two-goal game and, sure enough, that's what it was today."

In the opening round, Steffens scored three goals, all in the fourth quarter, as the USA posted a 12-8 victory over defending champion Greece on Sunday. Neushul scored on both of her shot attempts while Clark added a goal and two assists.

men

Current and former Stanford water polo players accounted for seven goals as the USA Men's National Team picked up its first victory at the FINA World Championships with a convincing 16-3 victory over South Africa on Wednesday in Barcelona.

Current Cardinal Alex Bowen tallied three times while Stanford grads Tony Azevedo and Janson Wigo each added two goals for the Americans.

John Mann paced the U.S. offensive attack with five goals while Andy Stevens went the distance in net, turning aside eight shots.

Team USA now moves to 1-1 in group play with Canada remaining on Friday evening to close out preliminary play. USA matches stream live on UniversalSports.com.

Team USA got off to a blazing start on the offensive end building a 4-0 lead in the first period. Bowen connected from the outside less than thirty seconds into the match for a 1-0 lead. Mann followed moments later with two straight goals, the latter coming on a power play, for a 3-0 lead. Wigo closed out the scoring in the first period with a power-play strike from the perimeter for a 4-0 lead. 

Mann posted his third goal on the first possession of the second period as he got free on the counter attack for a 5-0 lead. South Africa broke through with its first goal a minute later to draw within 5-1. The United States responded in a hurry by rattling off seven straight goals in a run that spanned the end of the second period and start of the third. Another goal by Wigo pushed the lead to 9-1.

The onslaught continued in the third period with Mann scoring from the inside followed by two straight Azevedo goals to grab a 12-1 lead with 5:02 remaining. Bowen found the cage on a counter attack for a 14-3 lead after three periods.

In an opening-round match, Croatia handed Team USA a 9-7 loss on Monday. Bowen scored one goal for the USA, which caused a ripple in the pool with a 3-2 advantage late in the second quarter. Croatia regained momentum with a four-goal burst in the middle stages that left USA grappling for goals.Wigo and Azevedo also saw action but did not score.

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