Alex Bowen competing during the men's preliminary round against Greece at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 on Aug. 2, 2021 in Tokyo.
The U.S. men’s water polo team entered the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 with lofty expectations, perhaps even the country’s first gold medal.
After all, the Americans were coming off winning a silver medal at the FINA World League Super Final just a month before the Games and 10 of the 13 players won gold at the 2019 Pan American Games.
But there was some choppy water that the U.S. encountered during pool play.
After a 14-5 loss to Greece on Monday at the Tatsumi Water Polo Centre in Tokyo, the Americans know they need to regroup in order to land on the podium entering Wednesday’s quarterfinals.
Alex Obert scored twice for the U.S., which dropped its third straight game to wrap up Group A play at 2-0-3 and finish fourth. The U.S. hasn’t won a medal since taking silver at the 2008 Beijing Games, finishing eighth in 2012 at London and 10th in 2016 at Rio. Wednesday’s quarterfinal opponent — either Spain or Croatia — would not be determined until the finish of Monday’s pool play schedule.
Alex Bowen, Ben Stevenson and Max Irving also scored for the Americans. Konstantinos Genidounias, a three-time NCAA champion at USC and in his second Olympic Games, scored five goals and Ioannis Fountoulis four goals for Greece (4-0-1), which won Group A. Greece’s best finish in its 15 prior Olympic appearances was fourth at the 2004 Athens Games.
The Americans didn’t match Greece’s energy to open the game and were down 4-1 after the first quarter. Greece, needing a win or a tie to win the group, increased its advantage to 5-1, but the U.S. pulled within 6-3 at the half.
Showing a little more urgency to begin the third quarter, Irving scored with 5:55 left to pull the Americans within 6-4, but Genidounias scored on a penalty shot 14 seconds later to deflate the U.S. Greece would pull away to take an 11-5 advantage entering the fourth quarter.
The Olympic tournament started off well for the U.S.
In the opener, the Americans rallied past host Japan 15-13 on July 25 as Bowen scored five goals and Ben Hallock added three. The U.S. trailed 10-8 in the third quarter, but Brown’s fifth goal with 15 seconds left in the period put the Americans on top for good. The U.S., scoring the first five goals of the game and leading 12-1 at halftime, improved to 2-0 with a 20-3 triumph over South Africa on July 27. Hallock had four goals. South Africa was competing in men’s water polo at the Games for the first time since 1960.
Against three-time Olympic gold medalist Italy, the U.S. lost in dramatic fashion as Nicholas Presciutti scored on an extra-player shot with 1 minute, 40 seconds left in the fourth quarter for a 12-11 decision Thursday. The U.S., which led 4-0 and 11-9, had a chance to tie with 53 seconds remaining, but Luca Cupido had his extra-player shot stopped by Italy goalie Marco del Lungo.
Looking to bounce back against Hungary on Saturday, the U.S. surrendered three third-quarter goals while being shut out in the period en route to an 11-8 loss. Hungary is seeking its 10th gold medal and first medal overall since winning it all in 2008.
Want to follow Team USA athletes during the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020? Visit TeamUSA.org/Tokyo2020 to view the medal table, results and competition schedule.