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US defeat Australia in Los Alamitos
The fireworks started early in Los Alamitos, California on the fourth of July as the U.S. Olympic Team for Women's Water Polo and the Australian Olympic team combined for 25 goals with Team USA edging out a 13-12 win. The victory came in front a jam packed crowd at the Joint Forces Training Base in Los Alamitos as the win kicked off a four game set against the rivals from down under.
Australia started out in front early building a 3-1 lead in the first quarter on the heels of a Bronwen Knox goal, her second of the period. USA ramped up their effort as Natalie Golda put one home on a man-up scenario to draw within 3-2, and then Brittany Hayes ripped the net with just 11 seconds left in the period to tie the score at 3-3. Australia would score with just three seconds left in the quarter to hold a one goal advantage 4-3 after the first.
In the second the USA tied things up immediately as Elsie Windes lit the proverbial lamp and tied the game at 4-4. Then following an Aussie exclusion the goal was scored by Golda and USA grabbed their lead of the game at 5-4. Australia would counter with a score about two minutes later to tie it at 5-5 but the see-saw scoring would continue. Kami Craig drew a five meter penalty in front of the goal which led to an attempt by Brenda Villa. Villa missed on the first try but a Australia was whistled for a violation and Villa cashed in on the second chance to bring back the lead for Team USA at 6-5.
Knox found the net again for her third goal to tie the game on a man-up but then with just thirty seconds left in the half Craig took an entry pass, ditched her defender with a nasty spin move and found the net to give the lead back 7-6 at the half. In the third quarter Team USA led 8-6 as Windes found the net again but that was short lived with two straight Australia goals and the game was knotted at 8-8. Lauren Wenger changed that with a score on a man advantage to go up 9-9. Australia as usual answered right back to tie it at 9-9 and that was countered by a Patty Cardenas lob shot to give USA the lead again at 10-9.
The fourth quarter continued the see-saw battle at a Suzie Fraser goal tied the score for Australia at 10-10. Brittany Hayes drew a five meter penalty in front of the goal which was made good by Golda to take an 11-10 lead. Team USA seemed to put this one to bed with 2:16 to as Alison Gregorka found the cage to go up 13-10. Australia was not done scoring two straight goals, the last coming with :18 seconds left, but USA was able to run out the clock.
Betsey Armstrong did the job in net for Team USA impounding 11 shots on the night. The evening was highlighted by a closing fireworks display that set off to honor America's birth as well as the 100th anniversary of FINA. Team USA takes on Australia again on Sunday afternoon at 4pm at the Coggan Center in La Jolla, CA.
Quotes: "We've been stressing counter attack and half court defense. Our set defense was good and I think we accomplished what we set out to today. Any time you can play against Australia you know they are bringing their "A" game to play us." Natalie Golda, USA Defender
"It's great, I've on the team full time now for two years and I've developed a great deal of confidence. I think it's really encouraging for people outside of California to know they can go all the way in this sport." Betsey Armstrong - USA Goalkeeper
"Defensively, disappointing, let in way too many easy goals. Offensively, I was pretty happy, but we won't win too many games that way on defense, we need to work on defense." - Greg McFadden - Australia Head Coach
USA: 13 (3,4,3,3) N. Golda 4, E. Windes 2, B. Hayes 1, B. Villa 1, L. Wenger 1, P. Cardenas 1, J. Steffens 1, A. Gregorka 1, K. Craig
AUS: 12 (4,2,3,3) G. Beadsworth 3, B. Knox 3, S. Fraser 2, K. Gynther 2, T. Gofers 1, R. Rippon 1
Saves: USA - B. Armstrong 11 -- AUS - E. Knox 5
6x5 - USA - 4/9 - AUS 7/11
Penalty - USA 2/2