The United States senior national water polo team needed a few extra rounds of a shootout to beat Australia, 16-15, Friday and advance into the semifinal round of the FINA World League Super Final in Huizhou, China.
Stanford grad and team captain Tony Azevedo scored twice in regulation and again during the shootout to lead the Americans (3-1, 14-2), who meet Greece on Saturday with a berth in Sunday's championship contest aty stake.
Merrill Moses and McQuin Baron combined for 16 saves in net in the victory.
Team USA opened up a 2-1 lead in the first quarter against Australia and expanded the lead to 5-3 at halftime. The two teams were even in the third quarter scoring just one goal each leaving the United States in the lead at 6-4 with just eight minutes left in regulation. The fourth quarter was a high scoring affair as Australia rallied, outscoring Team USA 4-2 to force an 8-8 tie sending the match into a shootout.
"I did not expect to play such a close game," U.S. coach Dejan Udovicic said. "I just hope our young team could improve from each game. We performed well the first three quarters but we lost energy in the fourth and were caught by the Australians."
The shootout would remain level after the standard five rounds with each team going 4-of-5. Finally, in the ninth round, Team USA was able to earn the victory.
Both teams struggled on the power play in regulation with Team USA going 2-of-9 on power plays with Australia going 4of-13 with neither side attempting a penalty shot.
Playing the shootout is good for my young team to gain experience towards the Olympic Games," Udovicic said. "Anything could happen and anyone could win the shootout. Greece showed a high quality of play and great teamwork so far at the Super Final. Our young team will learn something from them."