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Women Make a Late Escape

Water polo: U.S. rallies for 8-8 tie with Canada with four-tenths of a second left to prevent big setback in inaugural event.


SYDNEY, Australia — There wasn't time for Robin Beauregard to think, not with the shot clock at the Ryde Aquatic Centre blinking rapidly toward zero and the U.S. women's water polo team desperately pressing for the tying goal against Canada.

After a careless lob by Canada's Marie-Claude Deslieres hit the crossbar and gave the U.S. possession with eight seconds to play, Beauregard and Maureen O'Toole broke toward the Canadian goal on a two-on-one. By the time they got within range and set up, there was time only to act on instinct. Goalkeeper Josee Marsolais had committed to going to her right to play a possible shot by O'Toole; when O'Toole instead passed the ball, Beauregard knew what she had to do.

"When she was throwing it, I was thinking, 'Please don't drop it. Don't drop the ball,' " said Beauregard, a two-meter defender. "I knew the goalkeeper was on the other side of the cage and the shot clock was running down."

Beauregard's goal, her third of the game and the third for the U.S. in the final two minutes, sailed past Marsolais' outstretched left hand with four-tenths of a second to play Sunday, capping an emotional 8-8 tie that left the U.S. 1-0-1 in the six-team tournament.

Australia (2-0-0) leads the group. The top four will advance to the semifinals of the first women's Olympic water polo tournament.

"We didn't come out great tonight. We weren't as sharp defensively as we can be," O'Toole said. "We're the best defensive team in the world, and we can play better. A point is a point, and this is much better than a loss, but this doesn't feel like a win."

After being shut out in the third quarter, the U.S. took advantage of Canada's too-early turn to a more passive style to climb back into the game.

Heather Moody's extra-man goal, set up by a pass from Brenda Villa, began the U.S. surge and cut Canada's lead to 8-6 with 1:50 left. Beauregard brought the U.S. within one goal on an extra-man goal with 1:18 to play, a high shot into the upper-right corner of the net. That set up Beauregard's last-second dramatics, which left the Huntington Beach Marina High graduate grinning in relief.

"We were very fortunate to get a tie," Beauregard said. "We were able to come back just because of our composure and our fight. When we were down three, we said we need to play better defense and just relax."

Canada (0-0-2) had a 6-5 lead at the half and padded that to 8-5 in the third quarter on a left-handed center shot by Cora Campbell and an extra-man goal by Jana Salat. With Marsolais playing exceptionally well and Waneek Horn-Miller fueling the offense with three goals, the Canadians seemed to be in command of a rough but brisk game.

"We were trying to protect a three-goal lead," Horn-Miller said. "This is something we can build upon. The tournament is not over and we're not going anywhere but up."

Asked if she agreed with the fall-back tactics of Coach Daniel Berthelette, Horn-Miller was evasive. "I was in there, trying to carry out the defensive strategy," she said. "You have to ask the coach."

Berthelette faulted the execution, not the strategy. "We followed the game plan for 24 minutes and a few seconds but we didn't do it at the end," he said. "When you have experienced players, you have to play within your limits."

Having flirted with danger Sunday, the U.S.--which will play Russia today--isn't eager to rely on late heroics anymore.

"Our defense was kind of slow today," Beauregard said. "They have a good offense and they had a really good shooting day, but we can play better."

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