A strong attacking display from the United States propelled the reigning World and Olympic Champions to a 16-13 victory over Italy in Long Beach.
In a high-scoring affair, with some excellent quality in attack, it was surprising that two of the more defensively accomplished teams in world water polo leaked as many goals as they did.
The game though was was truly an exhibition of the United States’ ability to convert power plays, as they converted eight of their eleven man-advantage opportunities.
Italy grew in confidence on the goal-scoring front as the game went on, but couldn’t significantly eat into the advantage that the Americans built. Carlo Silipo’s team drew even at 9-9 in the third quarter, but an offensive onslaught early in the fourth quarter put the United States in command.
Jenna Flynn and Ryan Neshul led the Americans in scoring, with Flynn scoring two magnificent long-range goals during the match.
Sofia Giustini and Claudia Marletta were the Italians’ best attacking outlets in the game, both registering three scores each.
While the Americans did block a fair few Italian shots in the match (11), Adam Krikorian will not be satisfied with his team conceding thirteen goals. This will be priority number one to fix ahead of tomorrow’s clash against the European Champions, Spain.
The Setterosa will know that they will need to limit the number of extra-player opportunities they give their opponents when they meet again in two days time (20 December 3am CET).
United States 16-13 Italy (3-1, 3-3, 5-5, 5-4)
United States: A. Johnson, E. Ausmus 1, T. Prentice 1, R. Fattal 2, J. Flynn 3, J. Sekulic 1, J. Roemer 2, R. Neushul 3, D. Mammolito 1, E. Woodhead, B. Weber, J. Raney 1, A. Longan, E. Lineback 1
Italy: A. Condorelli, C. Tabani 1, G. Galardi 1, S. Avegno 1, S. Giustini 3, D. Picozzi, R. Bianconi 2, L. Cergol, C. Marletta 3, A. Cocchiere 2, G. Viacava, C. Banchelli, V. Gant
Team USA enjoyed a positive opening quarter, leading 3-1 after the first eight minutes.
While Caterina Banchelli made four excellent saves for the Italians, there wasn’t much she could do to prevent some slick attacking play from the hosts. The United States were operating effectively on the right-hand side, with two extra-player scores from Ryan Neushul and Jordan Raney.
SIS Roma’s Sofia Giustini opened the scoring for the Setterosa with a shot from range, but a debut goal for UCLA left-hander, Emma Lineback, gave the United States a deserved two-goal lead.
Although Italy improved in the second period, the Yanks kept their two-goal cushion into the half-time intermission.
The Setterosa enjoyed early momentum in the quarter; Silvia Avegno pulled off a cheeky no-look score from the left, before Dafne Bettini scored for the second time in the match, again with a rocket from range.
But the United States stuck to their guns, and continued to make progress with some well-crafted attacking play; Rachel Fattal fired home with a power play on the left-side, before Denise Mammolito tapped home on the short post. Teenager Jenna Flynn, converted a 5m penalty well, slotting down to Banchelli’s left.
The Italians felt their way into a goal-scoring rhythm into the third, and were steamrolling through the American defence. However, their defence was left wanting, in the face of some extremely clinical USA finishing on the extra-player goals.
Claudia Marletta twice hit the target, supported by a close-range finish from Tabani, and a cute lob from Cocchiere. Sofia Giustini was enjoying a classy game, and powered home her hat-trick.
But the Setterosa didn’t have an answer to the incisive attacking exploits of their hosts; Serbian born Jovana Sekulic scored an excellent goal from the centre with her weak hand; Jenna Flynn twice hit long-range efforts into the back of the Italian net; and Ryan Neushul and Emily Ausmus slotted home coolly from yet more extra-player situations.
Following the trend of the rest of the game, the Italians couldn’t make any significant dent to the American lead, and in the last, the reigning Olympic champions picked off a tired looking Italian outfit.
Jewel Roemer found two scores rapidly at the start of the quarter, before Rachel Fattal finished off a good counter-attacking move. Before long, the US led by five scores, with Sant Andreu’s Tara Prentice making her mark in the game.
The Italians, who were on the ropes, steadied in the last to preserve face; two long-shots from Bianconi, and a 5m penalty from Claudia Marletta ensured that the United States didn’t run away with an unflattering result.
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