In search of its first Olympic gold, U.S. womenteam will be finding itself face to face with Spain on Thursday in the finals. So far the Americans have demonstrated an unimpressive defense, losing first to Serbia and later on to Hungary.
Monday’s group play against Hungary opened with 3-0 start for the Americans, as they took their early opponents very lightly, treating them as straight tickets to winning the gold medal. As the game moved forward, the Americans allowed Hungary to take lead by 11-6, and ironically it was the same squad that had beaten America in the gold medal game in Beijing during the 2008 Olympics.
Since making its debut in 2000, the U.S. women’s Water Polo team has never won Gold. It earned Silver in Sydney, Bronze in Athens and then Silver again in Beijing. This year, as the game moves to its quarterfinal round, US will face the undefeated team from Croatia before finally dueling with Spain.
“It’s a brand new tournament,” U.S. Coach Terry Schroeder said, according to a report by Washington Post. “We’ve got to start fresh, we got to stay in the moment, we got to find a way to find our heart, and that means playing good defense.”
In the previous two games, the Americans allowed their opponents 22 goals when they entered the tournament hoping to let them hold not more than 6.
“I’m concerned, for sure,” Schroeder said. “I thought we’d come out ticked today after getting beat up pretty good by Serbia.”
With half of the players over the age of 30, this might be the final chance for the team to aim at Gold in London. Monday’s loss appears to have shaken the whole team from their sleep, providing a gut-check for some.
“We’re all here because we love it,” said Tony Azevedo, the team captain, according to a report by The Associated Press. “You don’t make money. We play because we love it.” Azevedo believes the team needs a stronger defense, since this is what will be dictating their play.
U.S. goal keeper Betsey Armstrong sounded even more motivated. "We just need to reset and refocus," said Armstrong, who had 10 saves in the match. "When a gold medal is on the line, everybody steps it up. ... We need to be prepared for a fight from anybody."