The USA Women’s Water Polo Team will take on big underdogs New Zealand today after twice displaying what has become mundane dominance in senior international competition. The Americans dispatched South Africa on Sunday, 24-2, before facing European powers Spain on Tuesday at the 17th FINA World Championships in Hungary.
An outstanding first quarter, after which they led 6-1, helped Team USA beat the Spanish 12-8. The Americans exerted enormous defensive pressure from the outset, stifling Spain’s attack while on the other end the US went six for seven shooting to the general surprise of the crowd.
Scoring waned in the second quarter as both teams defended well not leaving much space to the other side. Spain showed signs of resistance but still trailed at half time, 7-3.
The second half ended even in scoring, the sides tallying five a piece, to complete the game with a 12-8 victory for the Americans.
Team USA’s Jamie Neushul was happy about the first quarter: “I think we started off strong, we had the momentum and we were able to get the goals. It was really good.”
USA Head Coach Adam Krikorian was less pleased with the team’s defensive performance. “We played well in the first quarter, but I think we need to be better defensively. That’s a lot of goals. Eight goals are a lot of goals to give up and if we want to have more success in this tournament, we have to be better in that area.”
Neushul stood out again after a breakout game versus the South Africans but emphasized the team over her performance. “I feel good. I just would like to find my role on the team and have an impact. I’m happy now to be able to do my job and all the team do its job too.”
When Krikorian was asked if he expected Neushul to perform as she has: “Yes I did. Maybe the rest of the world doesn’t. I’ve seen her play for many years and I think the coach always know their players than anyone else. I have a lot of confidence on her.”
About their matchup against New Zealand he added, “We don’t care who we play to be honest, we are really focused on ourself and playing at our level of expectation. That’s what we’re talking about, more than any other opponent.”
USA Men Fall to Croatia, Japan
The US Men were dominated by upstarts Japan on Wednesday after falling to Croatia, one of the tournament favorites, on Monday. The Croatians went up 3-1 after the first period and never relinquished the lead in a convincing 12-7 victory.
Head Coach Dejan Udovicic pointed to his team’s inexperience. “We made so many turnovers and the mistakes are not allowed at this level.”
“For us there’s no easy game. We’re a totally new team and every game is important for us and we will fight in every game.”
That effort eluded team USA versus Japan. The Americans led 2-1 after the first stanza, but then allowed Japan’s unorthodox, risky defense to knock them off balance, contributing to a poor shooting performance and allowing Japan to unleash a deadly counterattacking offense.
The US next faces Russia, which defeated Japan 15-8 on Monday.