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Water Polo

Kiley Neushul Leads USA Water Polo Closer to Olympics Berth

Team USA has three local players: Neushul, Kami Craig and Sami Hill

Former Dos Pueblos High star Kiley Neushul led the USA Women’s Water Polo Team to first place in its group at the Olympic Qualifying Tournament in the Netherlands.
Former Dos Pueblos High star Kiley Neushul led the USA Women’s Water Polo Team to first place in its group at the Olympic Qualifying Tournament in the Netherlands. (Peter Neushul photo)

 GOUDA, The Netherlands — Santa Barbara Water Polo’s Kiley Neushul dealt out five assists, scored five goals, and drew three exclusions in leading the United States to a 15-7 victory over Greece and first place in Group A in Gouda, Holland.  The win over the previously undefeated Hellas was critical because it determined Team USA’s opponent in Saturday’s all-important knockout game.   
 
Only four teams—the quarterfinal winners—will advance to play in the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.  The United States will now face the fourth-place team in Group B—France or Germany—in a game televised by NBC Sports at 1:30 p.m. Pacific Time.



The game with Greece started well when Neushul stole the ball on top and cross-passed to Kami Craig who converted for a 1-0 lead.  Craig, a two-time Olympian, is also a member of Santa Barbara Water Polo Club.  Greece responded to tie the game but five more US goals made the score 6-2 after the first quarter.
 
Neushul and Stanford teammate Maggie Steffens put on a display of drive/pass water polo that overwhelmed Greece and thrilled the crowd at Gouda’s Groenhovenbad Swim Complex.  Team USA’s pressing defense and motion offense created cross pass opportunities for “slam dunk” goals over a reeling Greek defense.  Together Neushul and Steffens combined to help propel the US to a 10-4 halftime lead.
 
Greece attempted to respond with a traditional set offense, attempting to force the ball into their centers and draw exclusions.  Team USA fronted the Greek centers and forced outside attackers to take shots.  The Greeks did not drive and their shots fell prey to the capable hands of USA’s goalie, Ashleigh Johnson who had nine saves and five steals on the day.  Santa Barbara’s Sami Hill, an NCAA player of the year and two-time Cutino Award nominee at UCLA is also a goalkeeper on Team USA.  The third quarter ended at 11-5.
 
Neushul scored back-to-back goals in the fourth quarter, including a skip over the goalie’s head from the left hand side that put the game out of reach.  The United States went 5/7 on power plays and 1/1 on penalty shots while Greece went 4/8 on power plays and did not attempt a penalty shot.  In Friday’s action Team USA will face the Republic of South Africa to finish group play and then advance to Saturday’s all-important knockout quarterfinal against France or Germany.
 
Powerhouse teams from Canada, Greece, Holland, Italy, Spain, and Russia will vie in Saturday’s quarterfinals for the other three chances at qualifying for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.  All games are streamed live at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ku_odQgakOU&app=desktop

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