USA beats Australia for FINA World Cup gold in women's water polo

The top two teams in the world battled a third time in a championship match

Once again it came down to a match between the national women's water polo teams from the United States and Australia.

This time, the Americans prevailed, beating the Aussies, 6-3, in the championship match of the FINA World Cup in Christchurch, New Zealand.

Stanford grad Lolo Silver and Cardinal sophomore Annika Dries each scored a goal as the Americans

led at halftime, 6-0, en route to its first World Cup title since the inaugural tournament in 1979.

"We hadn't done it for 31 years," U.S. coach Adam Krikorian said. "There have been a lot of great coaches and players before us. We certainly wanted to bring the USA back to the top in this event."

The U.S. beat China, 10-9, in the semifinals on Saturday to advance.

Australia and the U.S. met for the third time in a championship match this summer. The Americans won their matchup at the FINA World League Super Final, while the Aussies returned the favor at the Six Nations Invitational.

Australia won the first gold medal presented to women's water polo in the Olympics, beating the U.S. with a last second shot at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, the secne of last week's Six Nations tournament.

Although the U.S. has not won gold, it's the only nation to have medaled in all three Olympic Games.

"We can easily lose to that team at any point," Krikorian said. " I was very surprised to go up 6-0 but we played great defense, especially in the first half. We made it a big emphasis after last week in Sydney. We were going to put in a big effort and it always helps to have a goalkeeper who played just incredible in the final and all week."

The Aussies were held to one power play goal in nine attempts while the United States was 2 of 7.

Since winning the silver medal at the Beijing Olympics, the USA Women's National Team has now won all the major championships, including two FINA World League Super Finals, a FINA World Championship, and Sunday's FINA World Cup.

The last FINA World Cup title occured in the tournament held in Merced.

"The Americans came out to do battle and ready to go to war. We were ready to go to bed," Australian coach Greg McFadden said. "Our shot selection was diabolical. Betsey (Armstrong) had a good final but she wasn't forced to make any spectacular saves, early in the game especially. I was disappointed as the Americans wanted the game more. They were ready to battle and we weren't."

Armstrong finished with 11 saves, including a big stop right in front of the cage at the 1:37 mark.

In the semifinals, the Chinese took a 4-3 lead early in the second quarter. The U.S. responded with three straight to take the lead for good, though it was tenuous at best until the Americans were able to run out the final seconds.

Dries drew a foul, which resulted in an American penalty shot, and then scored her goal to give the U.S. its 6-4 lead at halftime.

Stanford grad Brenda Villa hooked up with fellow Olympian Kami Craig to give the Americans an 8-6 edge heading into the final period.

The U.S was 2-of-6 on power plays while China went 7-of-11.

"If you don't count our five-man defense, which wasn't very good, our half-court defense and our counter-attack defense has been superb," Krikorian said. "We have to do a little bit better job on our five-man defense."

The Australia-United States match will be played at 2 p.m. Sunday local time, which means late Saturday night on the west coast.

Women's volleyball

Fourth-ranked U.S. national team defeated Thailand, 25-16, 25-16, 25-16, Saturday in a preliminary round of the FIVB Grand Prix in Hong Kong.

With one match remaining in preliminary play, against second-ranked China on Sunday, the Americans (6-2) solidified their hold on fifth-place in the World Grand Prix standings.

The Chinese defeated the Americans in the Montreux Volley Masters gold-medal match on June 13 in Switzerland.

"Our job is to win, but our goal is to get a good team together and continue to improve both individually and as a team," U.S. coach Hugh McCutcheon said. "China is a strong team and we will prepare as usual. It's hard to say who will win, but we expect it will be a good match."

Stanford grad Foluke Akinradewo had six kills and a block, hitting at a .857 clip, for the U.S. Cardinal grad Logan Tom added four kills and a block. Ogonna Nnamani, also a Stanford grad, added two blocks.

— Palo Alto Online Sports

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