July 17, 2003
BARCELONA, SPAIN - The U.S. men's water polo team used its momentum from a huge opening day draw with Serbia and Montenegro to stamp out Japan in convincing fashion today (July 16), 14-4, on the second day of competition at the 2003 FINA World Championships at Club Natacio Barcelona in Spain. The win positions the U.S. for a potential first place finish in Group B. If the U.S. defeats Australia and Serbia and Montenegro defeats Japan, it would bring about a first-place tie (2-1), bringing goal difference and head-to-head play into the picture.
Friday's action far from mind, Team USA busied itself with the task of dispatching Japan this morning.
Masakazu Yamamoto got Japan on the board first with a long cross-cage shot at the four-minute mark of the first quarter, but the U.S. rumbled back with goals by Jeff Powers (San Luis Obispo, CA/UC Irvine/Newport Water Polo), Layne Beaubien (Coronado, CA/Stanford/Olympic Club/Halkida, Crete), Wolf Wigo (New York, NY/Stanford/New York Athletic Club/Ethnikos Piraeus), and Adam Wright (Seal Beach, CA/UCLA/New York Athletic Club) to go ahead 4-1 by the end of the quarter.
Brett Ormsby (El Cajon, CA/UCLA/Bruin Water Polo) kept the momentum going in the second quarter, capping off an impressive 5-0 U.S. run with a long goal to make it 5-1. After a blocked penalty shot by U.S. goalkeeper Brandon Brooks (Honolulu, HI/UCLA/Los Angeles Water Polo), Japan's Atsushi Naganuna connected from the field for his team's second goal, closing the gap to three goals at 5-2. But Omar Amr's (Fullerton, CA/UC Irvine/Newport Water Polo) goal in the closing seconds of the half gave the U.S. a 6-2 lead at the break.
U.S. driver Tony Azevedo (Long Beach, CA/Stanford/Long Beach Shore) got busy in the third, scoring the first two U.S. goals of the quarter, bringing the tally to 8-2. Amr got back in on the act, outswimming two opponents on a counterattack and netting his second goal to make it 9-2. Azevedo struck again from the outside with 3:26 to go, and assisted Wright on another score to make it 11-2 heading into the fourth.
Beaubien buried his second goal of the day with 4:14 to go in the final quarter to give the U.S. a 10-goal edge, but Japan closed the margin to single-digits a minute later on a goal by Kan Aoyagi. Japan made it consecutive goals for the first time in the contest when Taichi Sato touched the net with a six-meter shot from the point at 2:15. However, Azevedo halted the brief run for Japan with his fourth goal on Team USA's next possession, and Chris Segesman (Santa Barbara, CA/Long Beach State/Los Angeles Water Polo) rounded out the scoring with a shot from the left-hander position with 30 seconds left in the game.
Wigo, the U.S. captain, said that his team could have played better today, but the job will now be to focus on Australia.
"We came out a little sluggish, but we still managed to win by more goals against Japan than Australia did," he said. "It wasn't the best game that we've ever played, but we still did our job. We've beaten Australia every time we've faced them. They're not easy games, but we match up very well against them and we should win."
U.S. head coach Ratko Rudic agreed with Wigo.
"I don't think we used this game like we could have to improve upon some things that we need to for Australia," he said. "But we'll talk with the players and discuss what we need to do. Hopefully we'll play with a bit better intensity."
"The game on Friday against Australia is probably the most important game of the whole tournament," said Azevedo. "It's the game that will put us in the top eight. It's the game that'll seed us first or second in the group. We just have to have our heads into it more and I have no doubt that we'll be ready."
The U.S. will close out preliminary play on Friday (July 18) against Australia in a 6:30 p.m. contest. This morning, Australia dropped a close one to Serbia and Montenegro, 7-6.