A bid for a three-peat at the FINA World Championships by the USA Women's National Team ended following a 9-7 loss to Russia in the quarterfinals on Monday in Shanghai, China.
Leading 6-2 early in the third quarter, the U.S. was blitzed by five straight Russian goals to give up a lead the Americans would never regain. Team USA now moves into the 5th through 8th-place bracket, where it will play the loser of a Canada-China match on Wednesday.
"We had talked about how it's not over till it's over," said U.S. veteran Brenda Villa, the Stanford grad and current Castilleja head coach. "We watched the World Cup, we watched so many games where they (Russia) tied it at the end, regardless of how the game starts. But the momentum swung and we just couldn't stop it. I feel like if we could have had one more field block or one more goal in that swing of things maybe there would have been a different outcome."
The loss by Team USA brings an end to a streak of five straight World Championships in which the United States played for a medal. Included in that run were three gold medals and one silver. It also signals the end of titles in every major FINA Championship over the past two years. The tally included a World Championship gold medal, World Cup gold medal, and three FINA World League Super Final gold medals.
In the match against Russia, Stanford's Melissa Seidemann scored twice while Cardinal junior Annika Dries and Villa each scored once. Betsey Armstrong went the distance in the cage and stopped 12 shots.
"It started with our offense," said USA coach Adam Krikorian. "Against this team, if you are not under control they will punish you on the counter attack and that's what happened. They scored a couple of counter-attack goals; they had us reeling. We had to come back with a zone early and they nailed some shots from the outside. We just couldn't generate anything offensively, and Russia is a good team, I've said all along they were the next best team besides us this entire summer."
The match started off in solid fashion for the United States as Dries scored just over a minute into the match. The defenses would lock each other down over the next six minutes until Villa skipped home a power play goal for a 2-0 USA lead at the end of the first period.
In the second quarter, the U.S. hit its stride offensively. At the 6:48 mark, the Americans went inside to Seidemann, who shed her defender to turn and beat the keeper for a 3-0 lead. A little over a minute later it was again Seidemann, this time taking a feed from Villa and finding the net for a 4-0 lead. The U.S. pushed its lead to 5-1 in the first half and held a 6-2 lead in the third quarter before Russia scored five times and grabbed a 7-6 lead heading into the fourth period.
Early in the final period Russia continued to build its lead to go up 8-6 with 6:32 remaining in the game. Over the next six minutes, the USA defense answered the call and kept Russia off the board, but the U.S. offense was unable to respond. Three unconverted power plays and a missed five-meter penalty shot spelled doom for Team USA.
"I feel like we had the momentum and then it swung to them and you are thinking defense, defense," said Villa. "We also knew we wouldn't keep them to zero, it's just a matter of rolling with the momentum. We just couldn't get on top of it at the end."
In other news:
The Stanford Water Polo Club went 5-1 and finished third at the US Open of Women's Water Polo on Sunday at Acalanes High in Moraga.
Stanford opened with an 11-7 win over the New York Athletic Club B team, then romped to a 13-2 win over SC Valley, both at Miramonte High on Friday. On Saturday at Acalanes, Stanford won its bracket with a 19-2 blasting of SET (Saddleback El Toro) and then dominated Davis, 14-1, in the quarterfinals.
On Sunday, Stanford suffered its first loss in a 9-5 setback to the NYAC A team. Playing for third, Stanford held off SoCal, 12-9. NYAC 'A' wound up winning the title with a 13-6 win over Santa Barbara.
Stanford players included Kate Baldoni, Kimberly Benedetti, Cassie Churnside, Monica Coughlan, Kaley Dodson, Jillian Garton, Victoria Kennedy
Alexis Lee, Alyssa Lo, Kaitlyn Lo, Pallavi Menon,
Lizzie Peiros, Kelsey Suggs and Cassie Wyckoff. Stanford's head coach was Susan Ortwein.