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MEN'S WATER POLO

U.S. Goalie Secures Tournament Sweep

July 24, 2006|Lauren Peterson | Times Staff Writer

Benoit Bry of France was awarded top-goalkeeper honors in the FINA World League men's water polo semifinal tournament Sunday at the USA Water Polo National Training Center in Los Alamitos, but Merrill Moses made a strong case for recognition too.

Moses, a 28-year-old goalie for the United States, made eight saves, including two in a penalty shootout that the U.S. won, 4-2, after tying Australia, 5-5, in regulation during the last game of round-robin qualifying for the FINA World League Super Finals, set for Aug. 2-6 in Athens.

"When the shootout came, I said, 'The team's on my back. It's time to block the ball.' I knew I was going to block it," Moses said.

The victory was the fifth in five semifinal-round games for the U.S., which advanced with Australia and France out of the six-team competition. The teams will be joined in the super finals by Spain, Greece and Serbia and Montenegro, which advanced out of a semifinal tournament in Portugalete, Spain.

Moses' final saves proved critical in providing a cushion that the U.S. could not gain with previous penalty shots.

Attacker Tony Azevedo, the tournament's most valuable player with 15 goals, had a four-meter penalty shot blocked in the third quarter and center Jeff Powers missed another one when the ball bounced off the crossbar with 47 seconds left in regulation.

Both players came through in the shootout, which, under new international rules, took place immediately after regulation play, with no overtimes played.

"I knew I couldn't miss that one," said Azevedo, who had one goal in regulation, in a man-up situation. "If I hadn't made that second penalty shot, I'd probably be burying my head in the dirt somewhere."

With the score tied, 1-1, Moses rose high out of the water to block the Australians' next two attempts, leaning left to stop Daniel Marsden's shot and going right to knock down Anthony Martin's shot.

Ryan Bailey gave the U.S. an insurmountable 4-2 lead in the five-shot round.

In regulation play, the U.S. capitalized in man-advantage situations, converting four power-play goals in six attempts. Australia converted four of 12 six-on-five opportunities.

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