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Australia Spoils U.S. Team Reunion

Water polo: Even with Humbert back with national squad, Americans lose, 9-6.


CORONA DEL MAR — The U.S. national water polo team spent much of Sunday's exhibition game against Australia getting reacquainted with teammate Chris Humbert, who was playing his first game with the team since returning from playing professionally in Greece.

The U.S. team may have expected too much, too soon as Humbert was held scoreless, and the United States lost, 9-6, at Corona del Mar High.

"When you have a guy with Humbert's talent come in, everybody seems to say, 'OK, we'll wait and see what Chris is going to do,' and maybe that's what we're doing out here," U.S. Coach John Vargas said.

Humbert, who is probably the best offensive player for the U.S. team, arrived five days ago after being away since last summer.

"It's really been a feeling-out process with these guys," Vargas said. "For instance, Chris Oeding hasn't played with Humbert in eight months, or Chi Kredell hasn't, or [Jeremy] Laster, all these guys."

The U.S. team got consecutive man-advantage goals by Kyle Kopp and Oeding to take its only lead, 3-2, with 5:14 remaining in the second quarter.

Australia's Mark Oberman tied it 19 seconds later after a U.S. ejection, and the score remained 3-3 at the half.

The United States stayed close until Australia scored three times in the first four minutes of the fourth quarter to take an 8-5 lead. Kopp's lob found the back of the net to make it a two-goal deficit with 1:32 remaining, but the United States never got any closer.

Kopp, who spent the most time at the two-meter position, led the U.S. team with two goals.

"We wanted to put Kyle in the set initially because he seems to be pretty effective in the beginning," Vargas said. "After that, Chris was going to slide back in after a few minutes."

Vargas hoped the loss would show his team it can't count on one player, but rather to win it must play as a team.

"I'd rather not have Humbert come out here and think that he has to be the main player," Vargas said. "We don't want a main player, we want a team, and to his credit he was trying to do that."

In another exhibition game, Croatia and Yugoslavia tied, 7-7.

The six-team Newport International Water Polo Tournament begins Tuesday with the United States playing Canada at 7:30 p.m.

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