Palo Alto Weekly

Sports - July 29, 2011

USA men's and women's water polo teams play for fifth

Palo Alto's Tosky earns a gold medal when U.S. women's 800 free relay team captures title at FINA World Championships in Shanghai, China

The USA men's and women's water polo teams will be coming home from the 2011 FINA World Championships empty-handed. There will be no gold, silver of bronze medals for either team.

Both squads, in fact, will be playing for fifth place when action wraps up Friday for the women and Saturday for the men in Shanghai, China.

The women suffered a setback to Russia in the quarterfinals while the men dropped a tough decision to Hungary, with each loss knocking the USA out of the medal round.

Both teams, however, bounced back after their respective losses.

Three players representing Stanford's past, present and future all scored as the USA Women's National Team advanced to the fifth-place match following an 8-4 victory over Canada on Wednesday.

Stanford's Brenda Villa (past), Annika Dries (present) and Maggie Steffens (future) all contributed goals to help Team USA move on to Friday's final match where the Americans will face either Australia. China and Greece will make their first-ever appearances play in the championship match.

"I was very happy with our effort and our ability to come back," said U.S. coach Adam Krikorian, whose team lost to Russia (9-7) in its previous outing. "I think that shows a lot of character and a lot of toughness and that's what this team is all about. As disappointing as it was two days ago, we know that we are going to learn from it and bounce back and it showed we had one bad quarter here.

"I don't know if anything will really kind of take the sting away from that loss. For us it's important we feel the sting, it's not something we've felt and it's not something I've felt in a long time. It makes you appreciate just how difficult it is to win games at this level. I've been saying this all along, this women's water polo tournament, the parity in women's water polo is incredible. I think we have a little bit more respect for that now."

In the win over Canada, the resilient U.S. was led by Heather Petri, who tallied two goals, and goalie Betsey Armstrong, who stopped 12 shots across four quarters.

It was a slow start for the U.S. until Villa scored at the 4:05 mark of the opening period. Canada answered less than a minute later with a skip shot goal of its own that went bar down and in for a 1-1 match. With 2:49 left in the period, Steffens (the USA's youngest player) scored a fancy shot -- gathering the ball in front of the net on a rebounded shot and tipping it from her left hand to her right and then past the goalie for a 2-1 lead.

Team USA took a 6-3 lead into the fourth quarter but kept attacking. After Steffens drew a power play, it was Dries beating the goalie from four meters for a 7-3 lead. It was 8-4 with 5:27 remaining.

A bid for a three-peat at the FINA World Championships by the USA women went by the wayside in the loss to Russia in the quarterfinals on Monday.

Leading 6-2 early in the third quarter, the U.S. was blitzed by five straight Russian goals to give up a lead the Americans would never regain.

"We had talked about how it's not over till it's over," said U.S. veteran Brenda Villa, the Stanford grad and current Castilleja head coach. "We watched the World Cup, we watched so many games where they (the American women) tied it at the end, regardless of how the game starts. But the momentum swung and we just couldn't stop it. I feel like if we could have had one more field block or one more goal in that swing of things maybe there would have been a different outcome."

The loss by Team USA brought an end to a streak of five straight World Championships in which the United States played for a medal. Included in that run were three gold medals and one silver. It also signals the end of titles in every major FINA Championship over the past two years. The tally included a World Championship gold medal, World Cup gold medal, and three FINA World League Super Final gold medals.

In the match against Russia, Stanford's Melissa Seidemann scored twice while Dries and Villa each scored once.

The USA men joined the women in a fifth-place match as Peter Varellas scored two goals and fellow Stanford grad Layne Beaubien added a solo tally as the U.S. held off Germany, 9-8, on Thursday.

Team USA will face either Spain or Montenegro for fifth place on Saturday.

"I think it is really positive for us," said USA coach Terry Schroeder. "I think there is the message that we have a lot of work to do. We don't want to be playing fifth through eighth, we want to be playing one, two, three. I think there is a realization that we are close to being there, but close doesn't count for much.

"We have a lot of work to do, the guys know that. I think it is some positive steps and we want to finish up with one more strong game and get into the summer and head into the Pan Ams with some good positive momentum."

The U.S. lost out on a chance to automatically qualify for the 2012 Summer Olympics following a loss earlier in the week to defending Olympic champion Hungary. The win over Germany was a positive step forward.

Beaubien gave the U.S. a 3-1 lead, Varellas made it a 5-4 match and later scored to make it 7-4.

Swimming

Palo Alto High senior Jasmine Tosky had one swim to earn herself a medal at the World Championships. While she didn't swim in the finals, Tosky nonetheless earned that medal when the U.S. women's 800 free relay team captured the gold with a time of 7:46.14 on Thursday.

The relay members were Missy Franklin, Dagny Knutson, Katie Hoff and Allison Schmitt. Tosky swam the third leg during the prelims, replacing Schmitt, and thus earned a gold medal, as well.

In other finals on Thursday, Stanford grad Markus Rogan of Austria clocked a 1:58.14 while finishing fifth in the 200 IM. The race saw American Ryan Lochte break his own world record by a tenth of a second as he clocked 1:54.00. The mark broke Lochte's time set in Rome two years ago when the since-banned high-tech suits were used.

Lochte relegated teammate Michael Phelps to second in 1:54.16.

Earlier in the week, Stanford's Chad La Tourette was the top American finisher in the 800 free as he took sixth in 7:46.52. La Tourette's best chance for a medal will come Saturday when he competes in his specialty, the 1500 free.

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