July 30, 1999
WINNIPEG, Canada - Canada built an early 3-0 lead against the United States and held on for an 8-6 victory and the gold medal in the women's water polo final at the 1999 Pan American Games.
The United States came into the tourney a player short and with just one weekend of practice, but USA and UCLA coach Guy Baker makes no excuses for his team's second loss in six days, and third consecutive, to the northern rivals.
"We did a good job on many fronts. All things considered, we've been competitive in every game and I'm very proud of our team's effort," Baker said. "This was a chance for us to grow as a team and allow some of our younger, less experienced players to get some quality playing time. We battled with them. Canada gave up very little. We needed a few more breaks to win that game."
Canada scored quickly in the first. The USA's slow recovery on a counter-attack allowed Waneek Horn-Miller to score a skip ball into the lower left corner, putting Canada up 1-0. UCLA's Coralie Simmons had a chance to tie the game at one apiece on a penalty shot with one second on the clock, but for the second time this tournament, she hurried the shot and struck the crossbar.
The break gave Canada some momentum as the Canucks scored two more quick goals for a 3-0 lead. Simmons scored from four meters out at the 4:11 mark to wipe the United States' goose egg off the board. Two more goals by Maureen O'Toole and Courtney Johnson brought the United States within one, 4-3, at the half.
"It was a good learning experience for this group to go through this type of tournament format," Johnson said. "I'm not as pleased with the outcome as I could be, but this will get us more ready for the Olympics in Sydney. We'll probably see Canada six or seven more times before then, and it will be just as tough a match-up. It comes down to execution. We need to do a better job on offense early to avoid playing catch-up ball."
Canada built its lead back to three goals on three more scores in the third, with one by Team USA's Heather Moody at the two-meter slot serving as the only bright spot for the United States in the period.
The United States played pressure defense in the fourth, and scored quickly on Gubba Sheehy's goal just one minute into the quarter. Four minutes of solid struggle finally led to a goal apiece by Canada's Ann Dow and USA's Julie Swail during a six-second span the final 1:19 of play, sustaining the United States' gold-medal hopes until the 2000 Olympic Games. Brazil defeated Cuba 9-4 for the bronze medal.
"We came in wanting the gold medal. I feel we have the talent to do it," said O'Toole, a 20-year veteran of the U.S. National Team. "This was a great experience for this team. The 10 we brought received a ton of playing time that will only help build the team for what really matters - the 2000 Olympics."
Simmons and Swail finished sixth among the tournament scoring leaders with 10 goals and eight assists apiece. Johnson scored eight goals, with Alisa von Hartitzsch and O'Toole adding six each. Heather Moody led the team with 18 steals. Goalie Bernie Orwig finished with a 46 percent efficiency rating, stopping 31 of 67 shots on goal.
Team USA will take August off, then resume individual training through the fall. The team will begin full-time training in January for the Olympic Qualifying Event, to be held in April in Sicily, Italy.
The Pan Ams are not an Olympic qualifier for women's water polo. Canada and The Netherlands have qualified for the six-team Olympic tournament based on their placing at the 1999 World Cup. Australia, as the host country, has automatically qualified.
Team 1 2 3 4 Total United States (blue) 0 3 1 2 6 Canada (white) 1 3 3 1 8
USA: Simmons, O'Toole, Swail, Moody, Sheehy, Johnson.
CAN: Horn-Miller 3, Dow 2, Campbell 2, Arpin.