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July 21, 2004

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Palo Alto Online

Publication Date: Wednesday, July 21, 2004

U.S. water polo, volleyball teams continue their Olympic tuneups U.S. water polo, volleyball teams continue their Olympic tuneups (July 21, 2004)

by Rick Eymer

While the United States men's water polo team lost in the fifth-place game of the FINA World League Super Finals, 11-10 in a sudden-death penalty shootout, on Saturday in Long Beach, the U.S. women's volleyball team moved closer to clinching a spot in the championship round of the Grand World Prix with a solid performance in Hong Kong.

Stanford grad Logan Tom scored a match-high 26 points as Team USA defeated Italy, 25-20, 17-25, 18-25, 25-22, 17-15, on Friday at the Hong Kong Coliseum in what turned out to be the critical match of the tournament.

The U.S. and Italy are currently tied for fourth, each with 4-2 records, in the second play of Grand Prix play. The top five team advance to the championship round in Reggio Calabria at the end of the month, joining host Italy.

Stanford senior Ogonna Nnamani added 14 points - 12 kills, two blocks - and had a hitting percentage of .458 in the win over the Italians.

The United States lost to China, 20-25, 28-26, 16-25, 25-20, 15-9, on Saturday but came back to beat Thailand, 25-19, 25-14, 25-20, on Sunday.

Brazil and Cuba remain undefeated, each at 6-0, with three matches remaining in the preliminary round. China is third at 5-1.

The United States joins Russia and Germany in Rostock, Germany, for matches beginning Thursday.

Tom had 30 points and Prikeba Phipps had 22 for the United States (14-9 overall) in the loss to defending World Grand Prix champions China.

"We were disappointed that we lost but we did a lot of good things out there," American captain Tara Cross-Battle said. "We did not do as well blocking as we did in our last meeting."

The World Grand Prix serves as the final pre-Olympic competition for the United States, which begins play at the Athens Olympics on Aug. 14.

In Long Beach, the United States lost in a sudden death penalty shootout for the second straight day. The Americans lost to Greece, 13-12, on Friday.

"We need these kinds of games to prepare for the Olympics," U.S. coach Ratko Rudic said. "We know what to work on. We know what to correct."

Stanford senior Tony Azevedo scored twice and Stanford grad Wolf Wigo added a goal in the loss to Spain, played before a crowd of 5,085 - the largest crowd to watch a non-Olympic international water polo match in North America.

"I have never played in front of so many U.S. fans," Azevedo said. "This is a great lesson to prepare for Athens."

Azevedo and Wigo each scored six goals in the loss to Greece.

The attendance record was broken on Sunday in Hungary's 12-9 win over Greece in the championship match.

The U.S. men travel to a tournament in Belgrade, Serbia and Montenegro beginning Tuesday, Aug. 3.

The American women's water polo team is in action at the Thetis Cup in Greece beginning Friday, and going through Sunday.

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