Bret Bonanni scores on a shot past Mitch Emery of Australia at 2016 U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Water Polo at the Uytengsu Aquatics Center on May 22, 2016 in Los Angeles.
The 2016 U.S. Olympic Men’s Water Polo Team will head to Brazil on a winning note after downing Montenegro 10-9 Saturday evening at the University of Houston.
The Americans jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first quarter, sparked by goals from captain Tony Azevedo and Bret Bonanni, but the visitors got a hot hand in the second quarter and drew even at 3-3 with 2:43 left in the period. Luca Cupido scored the first of his three goals and Azevedo added another to offset a Montenegro tally late in the stanza, allowing the hosts to take a 5-4 lead into halftime.
Cupido scored back-to-back goals to open the third period, and Josh Samuels found the net as well to push the U.S. advantage back to three goals at 8-5, but the cushion wasn’t enough as Montenegro reeled off four unanswered goals that spanned the third intermission to gain a 9-8 lead with 2:33 left in the contest.
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It took the U.S. 35 seconds to tie the match on a Thomas Dunstan equalizer with 1:58 to play. The Americans then looked to Azevedo, a five-time Olympian, to deliver the victory, and he did not disappoint, finding the net with 1:24 remaining, securing the victory with his third goal of the evening.
Merrill Moses and McQuin Baron shared goalkeeping duties for the U.S. and evenly split 10 saves. The U.S. converted four of 11 power player opportunities, while Montenegro scored on six of 14 six-on-five situations.
The Americans now head to Brazil, where they will open Group B play on Saturday, Aug. 6, against Croatia. Montenegro also is included in that group, along with Spain, France and Italy. Knockout rounds begin on Aug. 16, with the medal matches slated for Aug. 20.