ANNAPOLIS -- Thanks to superior conditioning as much as anything, the United States has a shot at its first water polo world championship in 87 years.
That is because the women's junior (20 and under) national team surged away from rapidly tiring New Zealand and won, 7-3, as the Women's Junior World Water Polo Invitational continued yesterday at the Naval Academy.
The victory, achieved with a stifling defense, a patient offense and four goals by Severn School graduate Vicki Gorman, sets up today's 3 p.m. title game rematch with Quebec at MacDonough Hall.
No U.S. team has won a championship since the men's team did it in 1904. This one must be achieved against Quebec (4-0), which dealt the United States (3-1) its only loss, 7-4, on Thursday, and is unbeaten in three games (2-0-1) against the Americans.
Quebec clinched its berth in the championship also by topping New Zealand, 6-4, in a game played later yesterday.
"This is probably the best scenario. Losing to Quebec the way we did gives us lots of incentive," said U.S. coach Brent Bohlander.
His team's incentive against New Zealand (2-2) was questionable at first. "We were a little flat after yesterday [Thursday]," Bohlander said. But the U.S. team regrouped from a slow start to outshoot the losers, 27-8.
In addition to the goals, four other shots hit the post, and matters might have gotten completely out of hand were it not for a superb game by losing goalie Jo Hadfield. Her 10 saves included repeated stops from point-blank range.
Both Bohlander and New Zealand coach Paul Metz said that conditioning was a major factor.
"It was not only speed. The total fitness of the U.S. was much better," said Metz, a former international player for The Netherlands. "We did have our chances, with four or five power plays, and could have used them better.
"But that's New Zealand polo. For us, this is not junior polo. It's junior-junior polo. The girls are just not as mature as the Canadians and Americans.
"It was still a good team effort which we can use and benefit from. We'll get the most out of it.
Yesterday's other games included a heartbreaking loss for the U.S. B team, which fell to Brazil, 11-10, on Christina Pinuroli's goal with four seconds left.
The Americans had trailed most of the way before rallying into a 10-10 tie on Tracy Proietti goal with 25 seconds to go.