The Miracle on Melted Ice

That’s what I’ve decided to call the men’s semifinal water polo match between the United States and Serbia, a game in which the U.S. doubled up Serbia, winning ten to five. The remarkable part about this is that the United States team came into the Olympics being ranked only ninth in the world and weren’t even supposed to be in contention for a medal, finishing only eleventh and ninth in the past two world championships. After the United States beat the number one ranked team in the world, Croatia, to win their group people have started to believe differently.

There had been speculations that Serbia had thrown one of their own games to end up on the same side of the bracket as the United States, providing the U.S. team bulletin board material to give them to motivation needed to beat the Serbian team that they had failed to score more than 3 goals against in their last meeting, which was in the preliminary rounds of the Olympics. Head Coach, Terry Schroeder, who was the captain of the 1984 and 1988 silver medaling Olympic teams, said that he welcomed the challenge and that they would be ready and they were.

The game was tied at four goals a piece late in the first half, but the U.S. put in their 5th goal to give them a 5-4 lead at half time. After that the United States ran away with it, having a 7-5 lead going into the 4th quarter, and not allowing a single score in that final period, and putting in three of their own. Lead by Tony Azevedo, who had three of the teams ten goals, and in addition to his hat trick had two assists, two steals and two blocks. The other seven U.S. scores came from Ryan Bailey and Layne Beaubien with two each and then Peter Varellas, Jeff Powers and Rick Merlo had a goal a piece. Though despite all of the scoring the player of the game award should probably go to goalie, Merrill Moses who had a staggering 16 saves, which when compared to Serbia’s goalie, Slobodan Soro, one save, puts it in to perspective on how impressive Moses’s 16 is.

This win gives the United States team an opportunity to compete against Hungary for the gold medal. The United States hasn’t had a men’s water polo team in this position since the 1988 Olympics. Hungary has won the gold medal at the last two Olympics and will be looking to defend their title and become the first men’s water polo team since Great Britain in 1920 to win three Olympic gold medals in a row.

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