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U.S. Team Defeats Yugoslavia in Water Polo, 7-6

June 28, 1998|DAN ARRITT | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The U.S. water polo team played Yugoslavia for the fifth time in nine days, winning, 7-6, Saturday at Corona del Mar High. The U.S. team, which trailed by a point entering the final quarter, rallied behind man-advantage goals by Jeremy Pope and Chris Oeding.

The U.S. lost, 11-8, at Corona del Mar last Tuesday and lost , 5-3, at Belmont Plaza on Friday. The U.S. team beat Yugoslavia by a goal in the championship game of the U.S. Cup at Newport Beach last Sunday.

"It's just great to have these types of games to show us where we are at," U.S. Coach John Vargas said. "Yugoslavia is a good, fundamentally sound team and one of the best in the world."

Yugoslavia, bronze medalist at the World Championships earlier this year, is familiar with the U.S. team.

"They have been really good training partners with us," Vargas said. "We trained with them last November in Colorado and now. We're actually going to do it again in November with them."

After using different combinations in losses on Tuesday and Friday, Vargas used his regular players and rotations in the series finale. The team boasts several county players. Pope played at Golden West and Oeding at Corona del Mar High.

Yugoslavia scored the first two goals, but goals by Chi Kredell and Wolf Wigo tied the score, 2-2, in the opening quarter.

Kredell gave the U.S. team its first lead with a man-advantage goal at 4:59. But Yugoslavia answered with three consecutive goals from Veljko Uskokovic to take a 5-3 lead.

Yugoslavia had a chance to take a three-goal lead but hit the crossbar on its next possession. Wigo then scored from seven meters to cut the lead to one with 1:22 left in the first half.

Yugoslavia earned a U.S. ejection on its first possession of the third quarter, but Kredell, from Seal Beach, blocked a shot and Jeremy Laster (San Clemente High) scored from eight meters on the other end to tie the score, 5-5. Yugoslavia took its final lead with 3:09 left in the third quarter on a man-advantage goal by Aleksandar Sapic.

U.S. goalkeeper Dan Hackett (Irvine High) had nine saves and didn't give up a goal in the fourth quarter. Yugoslavia had an extra man on two possessions in the final quarter, but hit the crossbar on the first and shot wide on the other.

The U.S. team will continue to test itself when it leaves today for tournaments in Germany and Yugoslavia.

"This win is a good confidence builder for us before we go to Europe," Vargas said. "We go to Europe today and [this win] is a feel good for us."

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