Women’s Water Polo
Laguna Beach High alum Annika Dries (’09) and Team USA squeaked out a 14-13 win during the opening round of Olympic water polo Monday night. The hard fought victory came against a scrappy Hungary squad that may have been looking for a little revenge after the Americans swept them during a four-game, four-city exhibition tour of California in early July.
Dries’ future Stanford teammate Maggie Steffens scored six goals in the first half before the Hungarian defense finally figured a way to stop the 18-year-old Danville, Calif., resident. Steffens finished with seven goals, setting a new record for a female water polo player in her Olympic debut, and tying the overall single-game Olympic mark established by Danielle de Bruijn (NED) in the 2008 gold medal match in Beijing.
Dries saw significant playing time, picking up a steal and an assist in relief of starting center Kami Craig. But a doubling-teaming Hungarian defense held Dries to only three shots and no goals from her two-meter position.
Goalkeeper and Newport Beach resident Tumua Anae did not see any playing time, as veteran net minder Betsy Armstrong collected six saves to hold off a relentless barrage from the Hungarian offense.
The win gave Team USA a 1-0 record, tying them with Spain for first in Group A. The Americans play the Spaniards Wednesday. The match will stream live on www.nbcolympics.com at 10:20 a.m. It can also be seen tape delayed at 1:20 p.m. on NBC.
The winner will take a commanding 2-0 lead with one game remaining in the four-team Group play. The team with the best record from each of the two groups will receive favorable seedings in the quarterfinal round.
In women’s beach volleyball, April Ross of Newport Beach teamed up with Jen Kessy of San Clemente to easily knock off the Argentinians in straight sets 21-11, 21-18 in their Olympic opener Monday.
Kessy was a monster both behind and above the net, collecting eight digs and 16 kills. Together, Kessy and Ross converted 25 of 34 attempts for a 75 percent kill percentage.
The southern California duo play the Netherlands on Tuesday in the second of their three Group play matches. They must finish among the top two in their group, or be one of the two best third place teams, or be one of two consolation game winners to advance to the round of 16.
Earlier in July, the American men went to London and earned the top qualifying position at Olympic trials. Monday, their hopes to become the first men’s gymnastics team to win a gold medal in a non-boycotted games were dashed as they stumbled to a fifth place finish.
Nineteen-year-old Corona del Mar native Sam Mikulak started his team’s rotation with a floor routine that was flawless, until he touched his hands down at the end of his triple twisting back somersault dismount.
Mikulak’s performance seemed to set the tone for a long night of subpar routines from which he and his teammates never recovered. All five men are young enough to redeem themselves in Rio in 2016. Until then, they have to regroup and prepare themselves for individual competitions in London, which begin Wednesday with the men’s all-around.