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BEIJING 2008 : WATER POLO

Looking for more than a 'sloppy' win

August 12, 2008|Kevin Baxter | Times Staff Writer

BEIJING — U.S. water polo Coach Terry Schroeder called his team's opening-game victory over China "sloppy," but good enough.

"We found a way to win," Schroeder said. "That's the important thing.

"We can still get better. The belief is probably there that we can beat any team in the tournament. But it's going to take a complete effort to do that."

Clearly he was looking for something better when the Americans returned to the pool today. And though he didn't get everything he wanted, he did get another win with the U.S. outlasting a physical Italian team in a foul-filled 12-11 victory at the Yingdong Natatorium.

Italy had a power play and a golden opportunity to forge a tie in the closing seconds, but Alberto Angelini's pass to Fabio Bencivenga was high, sailing over Bencivenga's head to the end line as time expired.

That preserved a lead built on goals by Adam Wright and Jeffrey Powers 33 seconds apart in the third period, breaking a 6-6 tie and putting the U.S. ahead to stay. The Americans padded that lead with Peter Hudnut and Powers scoring less than a minute apart to start the final stanza, but they still had to hold off a desperate Italian counterattack in the final minutes -- helped again by Powers, who scored his final goal, his third of the match, with a little more than three minutes to play.

The U.S. attack was balanced with nine players contributing to the scoring. Italy got three goals -- all in the third period -- from Valentino Gallo and three more from Maurizio Felugo. Leonardo Sottani and captain Alessandro Calcaterra added two each.

The aggressive Italians (0-2), led by Sottani, appeared to be doing much of their work below the water, keeping the U.S. from finding any rhythm offensively through much of the first two periods. Despite that, the U.S. took a 5-3 lead into halftime.

The Italians did a good job defending against Tony Azevedo, who came into the second day of competition leading the tournament in scoring. But the U.S. captain still managed a pair of goals.

However, goalkeeper Merrill Moses, who had played brilliantly against the Chinese, struggled today. Aside from the 11 goals allowed, he appeared to be beat on at least two other shots that bounced off the goal posts and one that hit the crossbar.

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kevin.baxter@latimes.com

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