Locals watch big win

CORONA DEL MAR — As the United States women's senior national water polo team took on Canada on Friday evening, it was a homecoming of sorts for two players.

Corona del Mar High alumna Tumua Anae and Newport Harbor High alumna Anne Belden said it was good to be back playing water polo in Newport Beach.

But on this night Anae, a goalie, and Belden, an attacker, weren't actually in the pool for Team USA. They were on the roof of the aquatics building at CdM, taping the action on a video camera.

"They're trying out different rotations, you know, for the next tournament," said Anae, who along with Belden was not listed on the roster handed out to fans.

The two former rivals saw quite a game from players they're quite familiar with.

Belden's former UCLA teammate Courtney Mathewson scored two late goals to bring the United States back from a deficit, and Team USA's other goalie — Betsey Armstrong — also came up big late as the United States defeated Canada, 12-10, in a shootout in the FINA World League prelims.

The teams play again Saturday at 4 p.m., also at CdM. Belden and Anae are on the roster and expected to play in that match.

"It's nice," said Belden, 24, the left-hander who won four NCAA titles with the Bruins from 2006-2009. "The weather's nice and it's good to be home."

Belden said her mother and father, Claire and Dwight, were there watching the action. Anae's mother, Annabel, was at the CdM pool deck as well.

"We're moving back to Hawaii," said Anae, 22, who won an NCAA title herself with USC last year. "So my dad's back in Hawaii."

The game kicked off a busy season for the United States women. They can't qualify for the 2012 London Olympics until the Pan-American Games in October in Mexico, but they're gearing up for the Kirishi Cup in Russia beginning Wednesday. Then it'll be the FINA World League Super Final in China in June and the FINA World Championships, also in China in July.

Coach Adam Krikorian's United States squad, the top-ranked team in the world, battled from behind against Canada in the fourth quarter. The Canadians twice took a two-goal lead, the last time on Dominique Perreault's six-on-five strike with 2:46 left. Team USA was hurt by exclusions all game, as Canada went six for 11 on the power play.

The United States was scoreless in five power-play chances and converted one of two penalty shots.

But Mathewson, who led all players with three goals, led the late rally. She responded with two quick strikes from the perimeter. The second one, with 1:33 left in regulation, tied the score and forced the shootout.

The United States didn't miss in the shootout, as Maggie Steffens, Mathewson, Kelly Rulon and Lauren Silver all scored.

Armstrong, the veteran goalie, got her hands on Canada's first attempt, then clinched the win when she just deflected Krystina Alogbo's shot off the bar.

"It's nice playing with someone who obviously has a ton of experience," Anae said of Armstrong, who made eight saves. "She's one of the best goalies in the world, if not the best. There's only everything to learn. It's nice to ask her questions basically about anything, about traveling to different players on certain teams, certain tendencies. It's really nice to play with Betsey. And she's cool, so that's always a benefit."

Elsie Windes scored twice for Team USA, and Jessica Steffens and Heather Petri also scored.

Rosanna Tomiuk and Hanna Yelizarova each scored twice for Team Canada, with Emily Csikos and Tara Campbell adding goals.

Anae is on her first national travel team. Belden is more experienced at the national level, after helping lead the Americans to the FINA World Cup title last August in New Zealand.

"The more experience you have, the more familiar you get with different players, different teams," Belden said. "It always helps to have a little bit of experience under your belt. But I've only been playing for like a year. It hasn't been for too long."

She looks to add to that experience Saturday.

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