After going toe to toe and goal for goal almost all afternoon, the U.S. women's water polo team had the final answer on Sunday in a 12-11 victory over Australia in the FINA World League semifinals at the U.S. Water Polo National Training Center in Los Alamitos.
Natalie Golda, a defender who scored twice, delivered the deciding goal with 37 seconds left after an exclusion foul by Australia defender Gemma Beadsworth gave the U.S. a six-on-five advantage.
The goal was good for the United States' second one-goal victory in two days and allowed the team to remain unbeaten in five matches over the five-day, six-team round-robin competition.
"It's a good measuring stick for us," said Golda, a former UCLA and Fullerton Rosary High player.
The United States, ranked second in the world after a double-overtime loss to Hungary in the 2005 world championships, also edged Canada by a goal in a 7-6 victory Saturday.
The U.S. got by Australia after playing catch-up most of the way and in spite of converting only three of eight opportunities with a player advantage.
The Americans, who twice were down by two-goal deficits, pulled into an 11-10 lead on a goal by Lauren Wenger with 3:13 left in the fourth quarter. Australia's Rebecca Rippon tied it with 1:23 left.
"If you're a good team, you could be lousy all game and then be able to put it together when you need to, so that was good," U.S. Coach Guy Baker said.
Australia also lost to the U.S. in the bronze-medal game of the 2004 Olympics in Athens but defeated the U.S. for the gold medal at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney.
The U.S. advances, with Canada and Australia, to the FINA World League Super Finals from July 26 through July 30 in Cosenza, Italy.