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Russia up next for U.S. men

8/19/2004

ATHENS, Greece -- Defending Olympic champion Hungary handed
the United States its first loss in water polo preliminaries
Thursday, beating the Americans 7-5.

Tamas Varga scored his second goal on extra-man play to seal the
match with 1:27 left. The Hungarians then blocked shots by Layne
Beaubien and Wolf Wigo to thwart a furious American comeback
attempt in the last minute.

"We were equal physically,'' Wigo said. "The main difference
was the 6-on-5s, when they really rushed us. The rest of the time
we matched them.''

The Hungarians led 5-4 at halftime and Gergely Kiss scored with
17 seconds left in the third quarter for a two-goal cushion.

Jesse Smith cut the lead to 6-5 with less than five minutes to
play, and Brandon Brooks made two saves in goal to keep the
Americans close before the Hungarians finally closed it out.

Hungary, which has also beaten Serbia-Montenegro and Croatia,
improves to 3-0 with two games left in round-robin play.

The Americans beat Croatia and Kazakhstan and face Russia on
Saturday, with Serbia-Montenegro set for Monday.

Wigo said the U.S. squad remained a medal contender, despite a
difficult bracket featuring three of the strongest water polo
nations.

"Definitely. These are the best teams in the world in our
bracket and we're playing right with them,'' Wigo said. "We beat
one of them, we lost to one of them in a close game. We've got two
more and we'll see how we go, but it looks good.''

Earlier, Aleksandar Sapic scored three goals in
Serbia-Montenegro's 9-5 victory over Kazakhstan.