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WATER POLO JUNIOR WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS : U.S. Finishes Fifth, Beating Czechoslovakia

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The U.S. water polo team defeated Czechoslovakia, 8-6, in the fifth-place game of the Junior World Championships at Newport Harbor High Saturday, but the team still couldn’t get over a missed goal.

The missing goal was in Wednesday’s game against Spain.

“We missed it by one goal,” U.S. Coach Ricardo Azevedo said.

“One goal short,” two-meter defender Gavin Arroyo said.

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The haunting memory is that when the United States tied Spain, 10-10, Wednesday, several shots hit the crossbar and went straight down without scoring. One more goal and the United States would have been in the medal round instead of playing for fifth place.

On Saturday, the Americans had few problems scoring. Chris Oeding and Tony Barnes each had two goals, and the United States built an 8-2 lead halfway through the last quarter.

But Azevedo said it was hard.

“We just came out flat again. We’re still disappointed,” Azevedo said. “They played together for a year and half for this, and we missed it by one goal.”

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After a slow start, a wake-up call for the United States came from Oeding with 38 seconds left in the first quarter. He scored from six meters out to give the United States a 3-1 lead.

Barnes skipped a shot off the water 31 seconds into the second quarter to give the United States a 4-1 advantage.

Czechoslovakia didn’t start as well as it would have liked, either. Julius Izdinsky scored with 1:54 left in the first quarter to tie the score, 1-1, but Czechoslovakia didn’t score again for 9 minutes 36 seconds. At that point, Pavol Dinzik’s goal on a counterattack cut the U.S. lead to 6-2.

Much of that scoring drought could be attributed to the helping defense of the U.S. team plus the goalie play of Larry Bercutt, who had nine saves. Arroyo never allowed the Czech two-meter men to establish a set position, and Czechoslovakia never scored from the two-meter spot.

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