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ATHENS 2004

Women's Water Polo Wins

U.S. team's 8-4 victory over Russia helps players shake off fourth-quarter collapse against Canada.

August 21, 2004|Steve Springer | Times Staff Writer

ATHENS — Enjoying the cushion of a four-goal lead heading into the final period, most water polo teams relax and mentally put a "W" in the win-loss column.

Not the U.S. women's squad. Not Friday. Not after Wednesday. Not with a slot in the Olympic semifinals on the line.

So, with the water lapping at their chins and the memory of Wednesday's embarrassing, fourth-quarter collapse against Canada lapping at their minds, the U.S. players maintained their focus and resolve and defeated Russia, 8-4, Friday at the indoor pool at the Olympic Aquatic Center.

"We're going to play for a medal," said U.S. Coach Guy Baker after his team improved to 2-1 and earned a bye through the quarterfinals. "We just don't know what color."

Two days earlier, there was no such optimistic talk after the U.S. took a 5-1 lead into the fourth quarter against Canada, only to lose, 6-5. A team meeting followed, during which the players said they shook off the crushing loss.

"We told ourselves that we are the team who had played the seven previous quarters in the Olympics," U.S. goalkeeper Jacqueline Frank said. "Not the team that played that last quarter against Canada."

Said teammate Robin Beauregard: "It was good to have that wake-up call."

Beauregard and Brenda Villa each scored two goals Friday. Also scoring were Kelly Rulon, Amber Stachowski, Margaret Dingledein and Ericka Lorenz. Frank was strong in goal with 14 saves.

With the big lead in the final period against Russia (2-1), Frank admitted the game against Canada was on her mind.

"I thought, this is not going to happen again," Frank said. "I tried to erase the fact that we had a big lead. I play better under pressure when the game is close. I couldn't imagine losing and winding up playing for seventh place instead. I was going to do anything I had to do to stop a goal. I would have broken my arm if I had to."

While his players repeatedly referred to the good that has come from losing to Canada in the manner they did, Baker doesn't buy it.

"I don't think anything good came of it," he said. "There were no lessons to be learned. In the Olympics, there is either winning or misery."

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