Oct. 28, 2011
GUADALAJARA, Mexico - Former UCLA standouts Courtney Mathewson and Kelly Rulon led the USA Water Polo Women's National Team to a thrilling 27-26 penalty shootout victory over Canada in the gold medal match of the Pan American Games on Friday afternoon.
Trailing 7-4 after three quarters, the United States stormed back in the final period. Team USA trailed 7-3 with 3:43 to go in the third quarter. The United States turned to Mathewson, who scored three of the next four goals, including the game-tying score with 4:39 remaining in regulation.
Canada converted on a power-play opportunity before USA's Kami Craig scored on a 6-on-5 play with 31 seconds to go in the fourth quarter. In all, the United States outscored Canada, 4-1, in the fourth quarter, pushing an 8-8 tie into overtime. Neither team scored in each of the two overtime sessions.
The shootout began with first five shooters converting. In the extra session, a format allowing each team to shoot, the first shooter for each squad scored. Mathewson was up next for Team USA and had her shot blocked. With the game in the balance, Team USA goalkeeper Betsey Armstrong delivered by blocking Canada's next penalty shot.
Each team connected on its next 12 opportunities. The United States hit its shot on the 13th chance, and Canada's shot barred out, prompting an enormous celebration for Team USA.
Team USA recorded 19 goals, one better than Canada's 18 goals, in the penalty shootout to win the match, capture the gold medal and secure a spot in next summer's 2012 Olympics in London.
The United States women's team is led by former UCLA standout and head coach Adam Krikorian, who served as head coach of the UCLA men's and women's water polo programs from 1997 until 2009. Krikorian starred on the men's water polo team from 1992-95.
Rulon will have the opportunity to play in her second Olympic Games, having helped lead the 2004 USA women's team to the bronze medal. Mathewson has never competed at the Olympics. Neither former UCLA player has been named to the 2012 Olympic roster.
The Pan American Games serve as the team's first chance to qualify for the 2012 Olympics.
Mathewson won the 2008 Peter J. Cutino Award, an honor annually presented to the nation's top female and male collegiate water polo players. She helped lead UCLA to NCAA titles in each of her four seasons (2005-08) and captured 2008 NCAA Division I Player of the Year honors (Association of Collegiate Water Polo Coaches).
Rulon finished her UCLA career as the school's all-time scoring leader (237 goals). She helped lead the Bruins to an NCAA Championship in each of her four seasons (2003, 2005-07). Her 70-goal totals in each of her final three seasons (2005-07) are tied for second-most on the school's single-season scoring list. She captured the 2007 Peter J. Cutino Award, a three-time ACWPC first-team All-America selection (2005-07).