Anae, Belden spark Americans

CORONA DEL MAR — Tumua Anae (Corona del Mar High, USC) and Anne Belden (Newport Harbor, UCLA) played water polo at rival schools in high school and college. But they're on the same team now and that's a good thing for the U.S. women's national team.

Anae's 12 saves as goalie and a Belden assist and goal helped spark the Americans, who rebounded from a sluggish start to overwhelm Canada, 11-5. Team USA swept the FINA World League Prelims Saturday at Corona del Mar High.

"It's nice to be home," Anae said. "I have a lot of friends and family from the area so it's always nice to play in front of your family."

Anae said she was nervous before the game, playing back in the pool where she became a standout for the Sea Kings. The rest of the U.S. appeared antsy early in the game, as Canada jumped out to a 3-0 lead. But Anae led a defense that allowed only two goals the rest of the way.

"I was a little nervous definitely," Anae said about starting for the U.S. team in her old high school pool. "But I play with such a good defense and these girls really know the international players so I just need to block the ball."

Anae, an All-American at USC, where she won NCAA title last year, came up with a big save with just under seven minutes left in the third quarter. She stuffed a five-meter penalty shot.

"She played great," U.S. Coach Adam Krikorian said of Anae, who was the starting goalie for CdM when it won the CIF Southern Section Division II title in the 2005-06 season. "This is her first true game in a long time with the national team. That was a great save on the penalty, but I thought she had a great game all-around. To only allow two goals after that run was a tremendous defensive effort led by her."

On the penalty attempt Canada was trying to tie the game, but instead the Americans went on a 3-1 run to close out the period with a 7-4 lead. Belden was a part of that run. She is no stranger to winning. She was on Newport's CIF Division I championship team in the 2003-04 season. Then she was a part of four national titles at UCLA.

Kami Craig, who scored three goals, connected for a goal to start the third-quarter run. Then Belden served up a nice pass to Elsie Windes for a goal. Belden, a lefty, got one past the goalie for the 7-4 lead.

Belden said the Americans stepped up after the first quarter and played with a sense of urgency. She said a lot of it had to do with the defense.

She doesn't mind giving credit to Anae even though she's originally her Back Bay rival.

"She's a great girl and a great goalie, so it's all good," Belden said.

Canada couldn't do much in the fourth quarter. Team USA was also tough on the power play as Canada went four for nine. The Americans were four for 13 on the player advantage. In Friday's shootout victory, the U.S. team went scoreless on five power-play situations.

Krikorian was pleased to see his team improve after the rough start.

"I don't know where we were in the first quarter," he said. "It was frustrating to say the least. I was not happy. I don't think our minds were in the best place. Maybe I can do a better job of preparing them in the early part of the game. But from that point on I was very happy with how we played, especially defensively."

Team USA will next play in the Kirishi Cup in Kirishi, Russia in two weeks.

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