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Palo Alto Weekly

Sports - August 2, 2013

USA women's water polo plays for fifth; Stanford boys bring home silver from JOs

by Keith Peters

A lot has changed for the U.S. Women's National Team in water polo. A year ago, the squad won the gold medal at the London Olympics. On Friday, the Americans will play for fifth place at the 15th FINA World Championships in Barcelona, Spain.

"2012 was a great year for us, but now it's 2013 and it's completely different," said Stanford's Maggie Steffens, who was the leading scorer at the London Olympics. "Unfortunately, we are not able to fight for medals, but the fifth place now is our goal and we are going to fight hard for it."

In what could loosely be termed a rematch of the 2008 Beijing Olympic gold-medal final, the U.S. posted a 12-11 victory over the Netherlands on Wednesday.

Stanford's Kiley Neushul, Annika Dries and Steffens all scored two goals for the Americans to help erase the memory of the Beijing finale, where the Dutch won the gold with a 9-8 win as Danielle De Bruijn was the queen of the pool with seven goals.

The USA, which was knocked off the medal podium Monday following a loss to Spain, will play Greece on Friday for fifth place. This will be a rematch of the opening contest of the tournament, a 12-8 victory for the Americans.

The Dutch came back from a 9-7 deficit after three quarters and then from 11-8 and 12-9 deficits to nearly clinch a draw and possible extra time.

Kami Craig scored the eventual game-winner with 48 seconds left.

"I think this games shows some character and I'm proud of the team," said U.S. head coach Adam Krikorian. "We have one more game to finish out this tournament and we can't be satisfied with just today's result. We have to prepare like we did for this game, for Greece."

Also scoring for Team USA was Stanford grad Melissa Seidemann while KK Clark of Menlo Park also saw action along with Stanford grad Lolo Silver.

On Monday, the USA's unbeaten streak came to an end in a showdown between the U.S. and Spain, who played for the gold medal last summer. This time, however, the script changed and Spain won instead, 9-6. It was a six-goal turnaround from the London Olympics.

"We have been together for only two months, progressing every game," said USA's Kelly Rulon. "It was different than in London as we had been playing together for almost three years. It's tough to feel what it means to lose after the gold-medal joy in London."

This time is was all about Spain, five times the bridesmaid and twice finishing equal with U.S. in major competition, but never winning before Monday.

Craig, who scored three goals in a match where the USA center forwards were stifled, scored USA's third and Steffens found the cage on a penalty shot to get the Americans to within 5-4 by halftime.

Seidemann scored in the third period to make it a 6-5 match before Spain reeled off three unanswered goals. Steffens, Neushul and Clark each recorded an assist.

* * * *

Stanford's Jeff Schweimer helped the USA men's team win the gold medal at the 19th Maccabiah Games that wrapped up Monday in Israel.

It was the men's third gold medal and first since 2001 in the Games, which are the third-largest sporting event behind the Olympic Games and FIFA World Cup. The USA sent 1,100 athletes to compete.

* * * *

The Stanford Boys' Water Polo Club took nine teams to the National Junior Olympics, which wrapped up Tuesday in Orange County, and came home with some medals.

Both the 16U and 12U Red teams brought home silver medals after falling in championship games at UC Irvine. The 16s fell to SoCal Black in a shootout, 11.4 to 11.2, to finish the four-day tournament with a 6-2 mark.

The Stanford 12s dropped a 5-2 decision to United Blue in the finals for their only loss in seven matches.

Both teams had to play semifinals earlier in the day, the 16s swamping CHAWP White (17-8) and the 12s holding off LWP Blue (7-3).

Brian Kreutzkamp, the boys' coach at Sacred Heart Prep, guided the 16s while Matt Johnson, the new boys' head coach at Gunn, led the 12s.

In other final-day matches:

The Stanford 18U Red team (5-3) defeated Santa Barbara for ninth place in a shootout (9.3 to 9.1) at Newport Harbor High, while Stanford 18U White (4-4) posted an 8-6 win over LWP Gold for seventh place in a lower bracket at Ocean View High.

The Stanford 14U Red squad (3-4) lost to SoCal Black, 7-4, in the game for 11th place at San Juan Hills High.

Stanford 12U White (3-4) dropped a 12-10 decision to LWP Gold while finishing 12th at Valencia High.

In the Classic Division, Stanford 16U White (5-2) won a shootout (8.4 to 8.2) over SoCal Gold for seventh at Tustin High, while Stanford 16U Black (3-3) downed Sacramento Black, 10-4, for 13th place.

Stanford 14U White (4-4) dropped an 11-8 decision to United White and settled for 16th at Santa Margarita High.

* * * *

The girls' National Junior Olympics got under way Thursday with the Stanford Water Polo Club finding mixed results.

The 18U Red team won its opener, 13-3 over American River, before dropping a 9-6 match to Commerce. The 18U White team fell to Davis Water Polo Club, 10-2.

The 16U Red squad swamped Raider WP, 13-1, while the 16U White team blanked Puget Sound, 14-0.

The 14U Red team dropped its opener to CHAWP, 9-7, and the 14U White was dunked by SET, 20-2. Stanford's 12U team dropped a 14-3 opener to Santa Barbara.

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