USA Lose Water Polo Gold to Hungary; Silver Medal Still a Victory

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USA Lose Water Polo Gold to Hungary; Silver Medal Still a Victory

No one expected the U.S. men's water polo team, ranked ninth in the world, to win their group in preliminary play. It surely wasn't expected that they would defeat Serbia in the semi-finals, especially after Serbia beat them in the preliminaries, and head to the gold medal round against super power Hungary.

But the United States defied expectations to do all those things and play for gold. Not having medaled since the Seoul Olympics in 1988, the U.S. has received little or no funding recently from the Olympic committee. Hungary, on the other hand, claims water polo as its national sport and had won the last two Olympic gold medals.

Hungary and the United States exchanged goals in a potent offensive first half. Team USA captain, Tony Azevedo scored four of the U.S.'s eight goals. In the closing seconds of the half, Hungary's Peter Biros scored on goalie Merrill Moses to put the Europeans up, 9-8.

The U.S. had a solid first half, converting four out of four power plays, and sharing the goals between the squad, with four others scoring besides Azevedo. Hungary spread out the scoring as well, with eight different players scoring their nine goals.

Layne Beaubien scored first in the second half for the U.S., tying the game at nine. But momentum then shifted Hungary's way, as they scored the next five goals. The U.S. would convert only one of seven power plays in the second half, and Azevedo would remain scoreless.

Jessie Smith scored one last goal for the U.S. in the closing minutes, but there was no hope to rally.

Despite the disappointment of making it to the gold medal game and leaving with the silver, the U.S. men's water polo team was victorious in Beijing.

Their goal was to make it to the medal stand. The U.S. did so with less resources than other teams and without the sharpening effect of European competition that the Hungarians, Serbs, Croatians, and Montenegrins have.

Attaining the silver is a tribute to their efforts, and to the coaching of Terry Schroeder, who captained the U.S. in Seoul the last time they medaled.

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