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Water Polo : U.S. Holds Off West Germany, 5-4

<i> Times Staff Writer</i>

Experience is nice, but Bill Barnett, the United States national team water polo coach, would gladly trade a bit of it for a more rigorous practice schedule.

If he could gather his players together for, say, five or six practices a week, instead of the present twice-a-week routine, then perhaps they wouldn’t suffer the kind of mental lapses they did in the fourth period of Sunday’s 5-4 exhibition victory over West Germany at Newport Harbor High School.

The United States was in control of the match, taking a 5-2 lead into the last quarter, but let the West Germans back in by not capitalizing on two power-play opportunities in the final seven minutes.

Twice, the United States--which has seven returning Olympians, including five who have been with the national team for eight years or more--took what Barnett thought were low percentage shots in six-on-five situations. And both came with at least 10 seconds remaining on the 35-second shot clock.

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Barnett felt that, with a three-goal lead, his players should have attempted to knock as much time off the game clock as it could. Instead, the United States had to hold off the West Germans in the final seconds.

Uwe Sterzik scored a power-play goal with 3:13 remaining to pull West Germany to within two, 5-3, and Frank Otto tipped a Hagen Stamm pass by U.S. goalie Craig Wilson with 12 seconds left to make it 5-4.

The U.S. team was able to maintain possession and run out the clock for the victory, but Barnett was not pleased.

“The fourth quarter was not a good performance at all,” he said. “We had two six-on-five situations and rushed bad shots both times. You wouldn’t expect that from a team this experienced, but a lot of it has to do with a lack of playing time. We don’t have club teams, like they do in Europe, that play together for eight months every year. These guys all have to work.”

What the U.S. team lacked in offensive execution, it made up for in defense. Wilson, a former UC Santa Barbara star goalkeeper, played an outstanding game, making 13 saves and holding the West Germans scoreless for the first two quarters.

The United States took a a 2-0 lead in the first period on goals by Jody Campbell, formerly of UC Irvine, and made it 3-0 just before halftime when James Bergeson, a former Newport Harbor star, scored with 1:24 remaining in the second.

West Germany finally scored early in the third period on Derk Jacoby’s shot from the right side, but the U.S. team opened a 5-1 lead on third-quarter goals by Greg Boyer and Terry Schroeder.

With Sunday’s victory and Wednesday’s 12-10 win over West Germany in San Diego, the U.S. team took a 2-0 lead in the five-game exhibition series, which continues tonight with a 7:30 match at the Belmont Plaza pool in Long Beach. The teams then will travel to Northern California for games Wednesday at California and Thursday at Stanford.

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