U.S. Women Have Strong Showing In Pre-Olympic Tournament

Aug. 1, 2004

UCLA players Thalia Munro and Kelly Rulon contributed 3 and 2 goals respectively to help the U.S. women's Olympic team get off to a strong start. The team claimed first place at the Pre-Olympic Tournament in Gorizia, Italy. Former Bruin Nicolle Payne also had 8 saves. Top-ranked Team USA beat No. 2 world power Italy 10-6 on the final day of competition and earned top honors by means of goal differential in the six-team tournament. Both the United States and Hungary finished with seven points apiece, thanks to a 6-6 tie between the two on day two, but the U.S. women won out on goal differential (+12) to take an edge on the Hungarians (+10). Rounding out the last day of play, Hungary beat Kazakhstan 14-7, and Australia beat Greece 4-3. Australia finished third in the tournament, followed by Greece in fourth, Kazakhstan in fifth and Italy in sixth. Team USA now has a couple days of rest before heading to Athens for processing and settling into the Olympic Village. Training will continue with the Greek team, and then the United States will kick off its pursuit for gold with its Olympic opener against Hungary on Aug. 16. "The last two tournaments have given us a clear idea of what we need to work on," U.S. coach Guy Baker said. "We have a few things to work on in the next few weeks." Team USA seems to have worked out some of the 6-on-5 troubles it faced earlier in the week. The United States connected on three power play against Italy, and though the USA was kicked out 11 times, Italy converted on five. Three of those came early, but Italy went 2-for-6 in the second half. "We did a good job stopping the 6-on-5s," Baker said. "If we hadn't improved on that, it would have been a much closer game." The Italians went up first on a 6-on-5 goal from Tania Di Mario, and then Team USA went on the attack. Italy managed to tie it up 3-3 in the second quarter, only to have Ericka Lorenz (San Diego, CA/UC Berkeley) nail a power play score to give the United States a 4-3 lead that it would not relinquish. By the end of the third quarter, Team USA had taken an 8-5 lead. Italy's starting goalie Viviana Castagna gave way to Francesca Conti for the final frame. Conti had been sidelined with an injury sustained in the Thetis Cup the previous week. She put up three saves against the USA in the final quarter, but Team USA still managed to punch in a pair of goals to stay well ahead of its hosts. By the final buzzer, Lorenz and Thalia Munro (Santa Barbara, CA/UCLA) had proved sparkplugs on the counterattack and the U.S. 6-on-5 opportunities, finishing with four and three goals, respectively. U.S. attacker Brenda Villa was named Player of the Tournament, having scored 10 goals for Team USA on the way to the first-place finish.

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