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Newz Forum: OLYMPICS: US water polo team blows lead

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posted on Aug, 18 2004 @ 11:24 AM
U.S. goalkeeper Jackie Frank dipped under water to think. She resurfaced wondering if the blur of the previous six minutes really happened.

It was.

Canada fired five unanswered goals past Frank in the last 5½ minutes to edge the world champion Americans 6-5 in Wednesday's Olympic water polo shocker.

"I thought, 'Wow! What just happened?' '' she said.

Losing was bad enough. The way it happened was unprecedented for the United States.

"From 5-1, no, we've never lost from there,'' said captain Heather Moody, a U.S. representative since 1996. "It's hard, but it's the Olympics and that's the way it works -- it happens.''

Moody is one of seven players on the squad who won silver in Sydney. The Americans lost twice in that tournament, both to Australia; first in the preliminaries, then 4-3 in the final.

The Americans have become the dominant team since then, earning the No. 1 ranking by winning seven of the last eight tournaments. They came into the Athens Games as the favorites and opened with a 7-6 opening win against the Hungarians.

Canada hadn't beaten the United States in more than a year. The Canadians were the losers in game at the Pan Am Games that let the U.S. team qualify for the Olympics. They were fourth at the last world championships and fifth at the last Olympics.

America's advantage seemed likely to continue through three periods on Wednesday.

Rookie Kelly Rulon, who scored two goals against Hungary on Monday, scored the only point of the first half against Canada. Then Margaret Dingeldein, Ericka Lorenz and Robin Beauregard scored to make it 4-0 until five seconds from three-quarter time, when Johanne Begin scored the first of her three goals in a 6-on-5 situation.

Moody restored the four-point buffer with a goal a minute into the last period. Then, it was all Canada.
Captain Ann Dow's penalty throw with 5:36 remaining sparked the scoring spree.

"It shocked them,'' Dow said. "From then, I had such energy and intensity inside that I had to let it out, and all my teammates felt the same.''

Begin scored again and Cora Campbell finished off a counter attack as Canada pulled within one point. Dow scored her second to tie it and Begin fired in the winner with 50 seconds to go.

"We showed that we can be up there with the best team in the world -- we are one of the best teams in the world,'' said Dow, on the verge of tears.

Some intense rivalry helped the Canadians.

"I wouldn't say I hate them, but we dislike them so much,'' Dow said. "We showed them today we can be as cocky as they can be by punching our fists in the air when we score and yelling in their face. If they want to be cocky, we can be more cocky.''

U.S. coach Guy Baker praised the Canadians, but said his squad didn't "take care of business.''

"It wasn't realistic to think it was going to be a shut out for the whole game,'' he said. "At the end of the third quarter, that's when we could have been a little bit more conservative. But we gave them a lot of opportunities and they scored, while we didn't take our chances.''

American Brenda Villa was scoreless after having four goals against Hungary.

"We did not let her shoot,'' said Canadian coach Patrick Oaten, saying he devised a strategy against her after studying tapes of the Hungary game.

Baker said his Americans had to regroup and concentrate on Friday's match against Russia, which could determine who finishes No. 1 in Group B and gains an automatic semifinal spot. The second- and third-ranked teams in each group go into quarterfinal playoffs.

Russia, which beat Canada in the opener and Hungary on Wednesday, is 2-0. Canada (1-1) next plays winless Hungary.

In Group A, defending Olympic champion Australia beat Kazakhstan 9-4 to improve to 2-0 and Italy beat Greece 7-2.

The men are back in action Thursday, with the United States (2-0) playing world and Olympic champion Hungary (2-0).


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