U.S. Men’s Water Polo Finishes In Sixth Place, Best Result Since 2008
by Todd Kortemeier
Drew Holland looks on during the men’s 5th-6th match at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 on Aug. 08, 2021 in Tokyo.
The men of the U.S. water polo team didn’t quite make it to the medal stand for the first time since 2008, but they can be proud of recording their best finish since those Beijing Games.
Though Team USA lost to Croatia Saturday night in the fifth-place game, thus securing a sixth-place finish, that represents an improvement on the team’s 10th-place finish in Rio and eighth-place finish in London. Alex Bowen added onto his team-leading goal total with two goals, finishing with 18 for the tournament. Drew Holland made 16 saves.
The U.S. program has scored some big international results in the years since the 2016 Olympic team failed to make it out of the group stage. The team won the gold medal at the 2019 Pan American Games, then earned the silver medal in the 2020 FINA World League. And its Olympic tournament started out with more medal hopes.
The U.S. opened with a thrilling come-from-behind 15-13 victory over Japan with the help of five goals from Bowen. Then the Americans found themselves sitting atop Group A with a 20-3 rout of South Africa. A major test awaited in the third match against Italy, the 2019 world champions. While the U.S. got off to a fast start and built a four-goal lead, Italy rallied back to take the lead with under two minutes left and hung on to win 12-11.
Two more losses followed, an 11-8 defeat by Hungary and a 14-5 loss to Greece to finish out the group stage. The U.S. had done enough to qualify for the quarterfinals, where it met Spain. The undefeated Spanish used a 5-2 fourth quarter to turn a tight game into a 12-8 win to eliminate Team USA.
Their medal hopes gone, the U.S. finished the tournament with some consolation by getting revenge on Italy in the 5th-8th semifinals. Despite not playing for medals, U.S. head coach Dejan Udovicic felt that playing these high-level international matches would help his team going forward.
“It’s a huge win for this young team ... to beat the world champions at the Olympic Games is an important thing,” Udovicic said after the win over Italy. “I can’t be more proud how we react after the tough loss against Spain.
“… It’s a huge (and) important for us, for our mental approach, for us to show we are ready to play in the future on a high level.”
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.