Today the world champion U.S. women's water polo team took on the Olympic champion Italians at the Yingdong Natatorium in a Group A preliminary match.
Italy came on strong and scored two goals in the first period. After a goal from each squad in the second period, Brittany Hayes took over during the last 3+ minutes, first scoring on a power play.
Following an Italian score, Hayes had a beautiful assist to Kami Craig at the 2-meter position. Craig launched the ball under the goalie's arm and into the net. Hayes lobbed one in for her second score fifty seconds later. The teams went into half time tied 4-4.
In the third period, Silvia Bosurgi rocketed a ball into the U.S. net from the perimeter. U.S. Captain Brenda Villa scored next on a skip shot during a power play. Jessica Steffens put the U.S. ahead by one with a perimeter shot that hit the crossbar and bounced down and past the plane of the goal. Italy scored once more to tie things up at six going into the fourth quarter.
The U.S. won the fourth quarter sprint, and played two sets of solid defense, stopping Italy at the 2-meter position both times. Brenda Villa scored her second goal from the perimeter, and the U.S. was ahead 7-6. Italy was awarded a power play and called a timeout.
Following some crisp passing, Italy scored and tied things up again. Around the four-minute mark, Heather Petri put the U.S. ahead again, and 42 seconds later, an Allison Gregorka goal from the perimeter gave the U.S. a slight two-goal cushion.
But Tania di Mario was given too much free space and scored to put Italy within one. Up by one and facing an impressive offensive with 1:16 left, U.S. coach Guy Baker called a timeout.
One of Italy's 2-meter players, Elisa Casanova, was put into position, and tried to draw an exclusion fowl from her defender, Alison Gregorka. Casanova, who wore a face mask due to a broken nose sustained in an earlier match, had the size advantage on the smaller American. Gregorka fouled her and Italy was given a power play. During the power play, Tania di Mario fed the ball into Casanova who caught and shot, sending the ball past goalie Betsy Armstrong and into the U.S. goal.
All tied up at nine, Guy Baker called another timeout. On the ensuing play, the U.S. tried to set the ball into Natalie Golda at 2-meters, but they could not score as the time expired and were left with a tie.
The U.S. team have been disappointing from the defensive perspective. They have uncharacteristically allowed 20 goals in two matches. Five of Italy's nine goals came during power plays. The U.S. did, however, convert three of their four power play opportunities.
The U.S. faces the European champion Russian Federation on Friday.