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U.S. Team Is Bolstered by Additions

Water polo: Olympians Arroyo, Wigo provide help in a 6-5 victory over Australia in tournament.


NEWPORT BEACH — Gavin Arroyo flew in from Madrid, where he works as a professional water polo player in Spain's top division, and arrived early Wednesday morning. Wolf Wigo flew in from San Francisco, where he works as a stockbroker, and arrived Thursday afternoon.

Both jumped right into the pool with the U.S. national team Thursday night during the third round of the Newport International Water Polo tournament and made an immediate impact. The Americans beat Australia, 6-5, in front of about 700 at Corona del Mar High's Marian Bergeson Aquatic Center.

Former Corona del Mar High standout Chris Oeding, the second-leading scorer for the United States in the '96 Olympics, and two-time Olympian Chris Humbert scored two goals. Wigo, celebrating his 24th birthday, and Arroyo each had one.

"We're still in the process of building this team, getting it all together," Oeding said. "Having a couple of Olympians back with us helps. They're both great players and did a good job of fitting right in."

Goalkeeper Chris Duplanty made several key saves--including two first-quarter blocks on point-blank shots--but none was more important than the deflection he made of a shot by Craig Miller with a minute left in the game. Arroyo went high to steal a pass with 40 seconds left and the U.S. defense kept Australia from getting a decent shot on its last possession with nine seconds remaining.

Miller scored first on a delicate lob over Duplanty's fingertips with one second remaining in the first quarter to put Australia ahead, 1-0. Then, as time ran out in the third quarter with the United States comfortably ahead, 5-2, he had two extra-man goals during a 19-second stretch.

Oeding got caught holding and went out with 3 1/2 minutes left to play and Nathan Thomas scored to tie the score, 5-5. But Oeding got free on wing and scored the game-winner on a skip shot into the corner of the net with 3:01 left.

It was, from U.S. Coach John Vargas' point of view, a good-news, bad-news kind of night.

"Chris [Duplanty] made some key saves for us in the first quarter and I think that helped us get our heads in the game," he said. "I'm always happy with a win and our goalie made a bunch of crucial saves. But we made a lot of mistakes to put him in the position where he had to make all those saves.

"This was by no means a perfect game for us. Am I concerned? Yeah. We have to play Yugoslavia [tonight] and they're a great team."

Arroyo, for one, is looking forward to it.

"It's great to be back with the guys," said the former Villa Park High All-American who played on the 1996 U.S. Olympic team. "I wondered how they would feel about me being away and not training here, but they've made me feel really comfortable.

"Now, I'm just trying to catch up on what the team is doing and try to fit into the system the best I can."

Thursday night was a nice little start.


Newport International Water Polo


* When: Today-Sunday

* Where: Marian Bergeson Aquatic Center, Corona del Mar High, 2101 Eastbluff Drive, Newport Beach

* Today's Schedule: Croatia vs. Canada, 5 p.m.; Greece vs. Australia, 6:15 p.m.; United States vs. Yugoslavia, 7:30 p.m.

* Tickets: $8 adults, $4 for students.

* Information: (714) 862-4052

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