U.S. women top Hungary to reach water polo final

Updated: March 29, 2007, 8:49 AM ET
Associated Press

MELBOURNE, Australia -- The U.S. women's water polo team got payback for its loss in the final of the 2005 world championships, beating Hungary 10-9 in double overtime Thursday.

Lauren Wenger scored four goals for the American team, including the winner 38 seconds into the second three-minute overtime.

Hungarian captain Mercedes Stieber had a chance to tie but U.S. goalkeeper Elizabeth Armstrong blocked the shot with one second left. The Americans erupted in celebration, while the disconsolate Hungarians clung to the side of the pool, several of them in tears.

"I think it was the most nerve-racking situation a lot of us have ever been in during an international tournament," Wenger said of the extra-time win.

Australia won the other semifinal later Thursday, beating Russia 12-9 to advance to the gold medal match Saturday against the Americans.

The U.S. squandered a 7-3 lead midway through the third quarter, but the defending world champions rallied to send the game to overtime tied at 8.

Both teams had chances to score in the final 30 seconds of regular time, but had shots blocked by the goalkeepers. They each scored in the first OT, forcing another extra period.

At the last worlds in Montreal, Hungary defeated the Americans in the championship game, winning 10-7 in two overtimes.

"Of course it's revenge," said Wenger. "You want to carry it over and you want to win."

On Friday, defending champion Serbia plays neighboring rival Croatia and Spain plays Hungary in the men's semifinals.

The Serbia-Croatia match is expected to be a heated one. Spectators from the countries that were rivals in a bitter early 1990s war are expected to pack the Melbourne Sports and Aquatic Centre for the late afternoon game.

Melbourne has large Serbian and Croatian communities that clashed as recently as January at the Australian Open tennis tournament. Croatian and Serbian spectators kicked each other and used flag poles as weapons during brief scuffles on the first day of the Australian Open.


Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

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