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Americans stunned

July 17, 2004

Steve Virgen

With a bandage on his forehead to stop a gash from bleeding, Omar Amr

typified the U.S. men's water polo team that also suffered a blow

from Greece in an opening game of the FINA World League Super Final.

Team USA, which includes five former UC Irvine standouts, lost,

13-12, in a penalty shootout to a physical Greece squad in front of

3,417 fans, that were rather subdued, at the Charter All-Digital

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Aquatic Centre in Long Beach Friday night.

The game was tied, 8-8, at the end of regulation, and there were

seven ties. Christos Afroudakis scored the game-winning goal in the

shootout.

After the game, Amr, a UCI product, sat and signed autographs,

while every so often, holding the bandage that covered a gash on the

right side of his forehead. He said he would need stitches.

With 1:40 left in regulation, Amr said Theodoros Kalakonas grabbed

Amr's head and smashed it into Kalakonas' knee under the water.

"They're a physical team," Amr said when asked if the play was

dirty. "We just wanted to stay with them. We gave it everything we

could, but we didn't come through. I was frustrated. It's not fair

that I had to leave the game like that."

The Americans, ranked No. 6, will play Spain today at 6:30 p.m. in

a fifth-place game. Greece, ranked No. 4, will take on top-ranked

Hungary at 8 p.m.

Brett Ormsby gave Team USA its first lead, connecting on an

outside shot with a skip-shot goal, giving the Americans an 8-7 lead

with 6:43 remaining. But Meuthos Voulgarakis scored on a six-on-five

situation with five minutes left, which would send the game into the

penalty shootout.

There were five players selected from each team for the shootout,

that had the shooters firing away from five meters out. Tony Acevedo,

who scored three goals, missed to open the shootout, but Jesse Smith,

Jeff Powers and Wolf Wigo scored. Ryan Bailey, a UCI product missed

as well. Goalie Brandon Brooks made two saves during the first round

of the shootout. Wigo's goal gave Team USA an 11-10 lead. But the Greeks scored again.

The teams traded goals again, and then Smith's shot was stuffed by

Nikolaos Deligiannis, setting the stage for Afroudakis, who had three

goals.

The Americans had to rally in the first quarter, just to stay on

pace with Greece and eventually set up the shootout. The Greeks

opened the game with a 2-0 lead.

Team USA was 4 for 12 and Greece was 5 for 8 on the man advantage.

It's disappointing that we never played to the best of our ability

in front of our own crowd," said Bailey, a former UCI standout. "In

the beginning we gave them two quick goals and that cost us the

game."

Bill Barnett, a former Olympic coach and the current Newport

Harbor High girls water polo head man, is on the U.S. Olympic

coaching staff. He's the video scout coach and will be accompanying

the team in Athens, Greece next month.

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