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WATER POLO

Yugoslavia Has Energy Enough to Edge U.S.

May 12, 1997|DAN ARRITT | TIMES STAFF WRITER

NEWPORT BEACH — The United States and Yugoslavia staggered to the finish line at the Newport International water polo tournament Sunday. Yugoslavia was short of players, while the Americans were short of breath after playing six games in as many days.

It turned out Yugoslavia had enough left to defeat the U.S. team, 9-8, in the championship game at the Marian Bergeson Aquatic Center at Corona del Mar High.

The United States had two good chances to get even in the final minute, but couldn't get off a shot on either occasion.

The first came after a steal by Chris Oeding that led to a two-on-one break with a minute remaining. However, Gavin Arroyo's pass ahead to Wolf Wigo was broken up when goalkeeper Dragan Jovanovic charged out of the goal and got to the ball first.

Yugoslavia quickly turned the ball over on its next possession, and the United States called timeout with 28 seconds remaining to set up a play. Oeding tried to get a pass to Chris Humbert at the two-meter position, but Humbert couldn't handle the ball and Jovanovic snatched it, holding it the final 20 seconds.

"The ball came in and I usually score that thing," Humbert said. "I just didn't get a good handle on it. Those things happen."

The United States was unable to capitalize on extra-man opportunities. The team was awarded the extra player 13 times, but scored on only four. Yugoslavia converted four of six man-advantage chances.

Humbert said it appeared the United States was feeling the weight of the tournament schedule, and was saving most of its energy for the defensive end of the pool.

"It's probably not best to rest on the extra man," Humbert said. "But I think some of us were thinking, 'OK, we'll take it easy for 15 seconds and then try to score the last five.' But this team hasn't played six games in six days before, I haven't done it in a year."

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