Aug. 11, 2003
The U.S. men's water polo team capped off a 52 day road trip with a 13-7 win over Brazil in the gold medal match of the Pan American Games at the Juan Pablo Duarte Olympic Aquatics Center in Santo Domingo (D.R.) tonight (August 10). The win gives the U.S. a spot in next year's Olympic water polo tournament in Athens, Greece.
The victory capped off a week where the U.S. outscored its opponents 144-33. The +111 goal difference was higher than second place finisher Brazil's entire offensive output for the tournament (102 goals). It was a sweet way to end a whirlwind road trip for the members of Team USA, who made pit stops in Hungary, Italy, Croatia, and Spain before settling in Santo Domingo for the Pan Ams.
The Pan Ams gold was only one hurdle in U.S. head coach Ratko Rudic's four-year plan. Asked why he was still dry after the game, having avoided the ceremonious dunk of the winning coach, he replied: "I still have bigger goals in mind."
USA driver Tony Azevedo (Long Beach, CA/Stanford/Long Beach Shore), who finished with the tournament's highest goal total at 33, started off the U.S. scoring at the 6:00 mark with a goal from the perimeter. Brazil tied the score the next time down to knot it at 1-1, but Chris Segesman (Santa Barbara, CA/Long Beach State/Los Angeles Water Polo) hit on a pass from Azevedo with 5:00 to go to reclaim the lead for Team USA. Ryan Bailey (Long Beach, CA/UC Irvine/Newport Water Polo) earned an ejection at 3:33 to set up Azevedo's second goal of the night, and on Brazil's ensuing possession, team captain Wolf Wigo (New York, NY/Stanford/New York Athletic Club/Ethnikos Piraeus) made a steal at half-tank and gave to a streaking Jeff Powers (San Luis Obispo, CA/UC Irvine/Newport Water Polo) who netted a crosscage skip to make it 4-2. A long skipper by Adam Wright (Seal Beach, CA/UCLA/New York Athletic Club) with 1:03 to go in the first gave the U.S. a 5-2 lead.
Brett Ormsby (El Cajon, CA/UCLA/Bruin Water Polo) got busy in the second quarter, scoring the first goal of the quarter on a rocket from the perimeter and assisting on the next to Omar Amr (Fullerton, CA/UC Irvine/Newport Water Polo) to help the U.S. to a 7-2 lead with 4:47 to go until halftime. Brazil's captain, Daniel Mameri, scored at 4:18 to make it 7-3, but Segesman recovered the goal after a Brazilian turnover and the U.S. led 8-3 at the break.
Roberto Seabra cut the U.S. lead to four goals early in the third quarter. Bailey took an entry pass from Ormsby around the 4:00 mark, lost the handle and recovered it, before tossing it in for his first of two goals on the day. Layne Beaubien (Coronado, CA/Stanford/Olympic Club/Halkida, Crete) rifled a ball into the low left corner and Powers connected for his second goal to make it an 11-4 game. Rodrigo dos Santos scored for Brazil with 21 seconds left, but by then the game was virtually out of reach.
Mameri scored again for Brazil with 3:26 left in the game, breathing a little life into the pro-Brazil crowd of over 1,200 spectators. Bailey's score from set on the next trip down to make it 12-6, however, seemed to hammer the nail in the coffin. Felipe Perrone, the star of last year's Junior Pan American Games, scored with 2:40 left, but again the U.S. answered, getting a goal from Powers at 1:39.
While Team USA's execution might not have been as good as in previous games this week, it was still legions ahead of any of the competition.
"Perhaps we didn't play as well as we usually do," said U.S. head coach Ratko Rudic. "But what's important is that we got contributions tonight from 13 players. And that means we are able to rotate more players and have more options."
The U.S. men were 'pleased to be wreathed' come medals time, but Rudic knows that work still lies ahead.
"For us, this is not the finish line," said Rudic. "It's just the beginning."