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Historic men's water polo win for Team USA

Water Polo

Behind six goals from Azevedo, Americans beat powerhouse Hungary for first time in 10 years in pre-Olympic exhibition.

May 27, 2012|By Matt Szabo
(Steven Georges )

NEWPORT BEACH — On this day, the power play was working for the U.S. men's water polo national team.

In roughly two months, Team USA hopes to make an Olympic power play on an even bigger stage in London.

Momentum could be gained from a good result Sunday afternoon. There the Americans were, in front of an overflow crowd estimated at 1,700 at Newport Harbor High. Their opponent was a familiar one, Hungary, a rematch of the 2008 Olympic gold-medal game won by the Hungarians.

The United States left no doubt about the outcome in this showcase. Team captain Tony Azevedo scored six goals as Team USA used a strong start to beat Hungary, 12-9.

Team USA, which features former Corona del Mar High and Cal standout John Mann as well as UC Irvine alumni Ryan Bailey, Jeff Powers and Tim Hutten, came out strong in the six-on-five. A day after converting just two of 13 chances in an 8-7 loss against Croatia, the Americans went 10 for 16 on extra against Hungary.

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Three of the extra-man strikes came in the first quarter, which ended with the Americans up 5-2. Powers scored the first goal of the game on a rebound, and Hutten later scored a six-on-five goal for a 3-1 lead. Powers also scored the last goal of the quarter, skipping in a powerful shot with 33 seconds left after he was fouled outside of five meters.

Bailey, Powers and Hutten were all part of the U.S. team that took silver in Beijing. This year's Olympic team will be named June 5, but the Americans currently have 11 of the 13 players from the silver-medal team of 2008 on their roster.

The United States is looking for its first Olympic gold medal. Hungary has won the last three. Sunday's win was the first for the United States over Hungary since a FINA World League match in July, 2002.

"It's a total team sport and we're very confident as a team, I think," said Powers, who scored twice Sunday. "We're pretty confident we can win this gold medal. We have a lot of returners, we're strong. That's why a lot of us returned, because these guys [Hungary] beat us in the gold-medal game. We kind of have that bitter taste in our mouth. We won a silver, but we kind of lost the gold."

Team USA would not lose the lead in this match. They extended it to 7-2 by halftime, as Peter Varellas scored twice more on six-on-five in the second quarter.

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