Loss to Greeks Puts U.S. Men’s Water Polo on Path to 9th at FINA World Championships

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Italy's Alessandro Velotto has a grip on the ball; he'll need to lead his team to a win over Greece. Photo Courtesy: Tsutomu Kishimoto / FINA

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Despite a disappointing loss Sunday against Greece, which knocked them out of the running for a possible top-five finish, the U.S. men’s water polo team can still finish as high as ninth at the 18th FINA World Water Polo Championships in Gwangju, South Korea.

To do so, they’ll likely have to beat Montenegro, one of the tournament’s biggest disappointments.

fina-gwangju-jul19An 11-9 loss to the Greeks Sunday sent the Americans down the road to the 9th – 12th classification. Team USA got two goals each from Hannes Daube, Ben Hallock and Johnny Hooper as well as eight saves from goalie Alex Wolf, but it simply wasn’t enough to stop a Greek side that got a game-high four goals from Kostas Genidounias, the former USC Trojan who after graduation in 2015 returned to his native country.

In a back-and forth affair where the U.S. at various times led by one or two goals, Head Coach Dejan Udovicic simply had no answer for Genidounias. The winner of the 2015 Cutino Award, he netted two late goals, part of a three scores outburst in the final period that allowed the Greeks to break open the match, which was tied at eight after three periods.

Up next for Team USA is South Africa, a 23-5 loser to Germany in one of four crossover matches for the FINA quarterfinals. If the Americans prevail–they have never lost to the South Africans—they’re likely to face Montenegro for ninth place. The Greeks move on to face undefeated Italy, winners of Group D, in quarterfinal action on Tuesday.

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Richard Campbell and Australia are moving on to the FINA Worlds quarterfinals. Photo Courtesy: FINA

The Montenegrins have to be extremely disappointed about their standing following a stunning 13-11 shoot-out loss to Australia. Hefty hole set Joe Kayes had his way against goalie Dejan Lazovic and the Montenegrin defense, tallying four scores, to help the Aussies send one of the world’s water polo powers to the 9 – 12 bracket, a circumstance that hadn’t occurred since 2004. Goalie Joel Dennerley—like Genidounias a one-time Trojan as well as Cutino awardee (2011)—had seven saves in the match. He  stopped two of four Montenegrin shoot-out attempts in the victory and maintain Australian hopes of a first-ever FINA World’s medal.

The win puts the Sharks in a quarterfinal match-up with Hungary, winners of Group C. Also advancing to Tuesday’s quarterfinals were Germany, which will play Croatia. The defending world champions earned a first round bye as the winners of Group B. If Croatia gets past the Germans—in a World Championship for the first time in six years—they will move on to a semifinal match with the winner of Spain versus Serbia. A contest between the world’s two best teams will be a rerun of the 2017 semifinal, when Croatia defeated their arch rivals to advance to a final against host Hungary, who they defeated 8-6.

[Tears in the Water: Croatia Beats Host Hungary in FINA Water Polo Final]

The Spaniards advance to the quarters with a 15-7 win over Japan, while Serbia, the defending Olympic and European champs, won out in Group A over Montenegro, Greece and host South Korea.

All matches will be available on FINA TV which can be accessed at FINATV.Live