USC's seven women's water polo Olympians move into the knockout round on Aug. 5.
Aug. 3, 2012
Group play wrapped up for the seven-Trojan strong continent in Olympic women's water polo action today (Aug. 3) in London, bringing up a push to the knockout round for all teams involved. Leading the charge on the day was incoming freshman Anni Espar, who rocketed in three goals for Spain in a win over Hungary.
Espar's performance helped Spain stay undefeated so far in the country's first-ever Olympic appearance. USC grad Aniko Pelle and Italy got their first win with a victory over Great Britain, while Sofia Konoukh's Russia fell to group winner Australia. Finally, USC's trio on Team USA - Tumua Anae, Kami Craig and Lauren Wenger -- pushed past China to close out the day's action and launch into the coming Aug. 5 quarterfinals.
In a clash of future Trojan teammates, USC incoming player Anni Espar served up three goals for her Spain squad to top USC junior Flora Bolonyai and Hungary. Bolonyai saw action in the second and third periods of play and made a pair of saves for Hungary before the coach switched goalies again in the third. Meanwhile, Spain was able to stay ahead of Hungary thanks in large part to key goals from Espar. The incoming Trojan freshman scored early, then twice more to break open one-goal margins. Her third of the day came with just two seconds to go to dash any Hungarian hopes of equalizing and to lock in the 13-11 win for Spain.
Next, the controllers of Group B squared off, with USC Olympic veteran Sofia Konoukh and Russia up against Australia. Australia pulled ahead for an 11-8 win over the Russians to secure the top spot in the group. Then, USC grad Aniko Pelle and Italy posted a 10-5 win over host Great Britain.
The closing match of the day was a tight one for Team USA against China. The Chinese team took the lead early before the United State made a winning charge. During that push, USC's Kami Craig
earned a 5-meter penalty shot and later put USA up on a 6-on-5 in the final minute to help generate a U.S. push to a 7-6 win to stay undefeated in group play, even with Spain at five points thanks to a tie with the Spaniards two days ago.
In Aug. 5 quarterfinal play, Anae, Craig and Wenger of Team USA will face Pelle's Italy at 6:50 a.m. followed by an 8:10 a.m. clash between Bolonyai's Hungary and Konoukh's Russia. At 11 a.m., Espar and Spain take on Great Britain in quarterfinal action.
Follow the Trojans in their pursuit of Olympic gold at www.usctrojans.com/london2012
TUMUA ANAE USA women's water polo
A three-time first-team All-American and 2010 NCAA Champion at USC, Tumua Anae is a first-time Olympian. Anae got the call up to the U.S. National Team after graduating from USC in 2010 and helped Team USA win 2011 and 2012 FINA World League Super Final championships as well as earn Olympic qualification at the 2011 Pan American Games. She is USC's all-time leader in career saves and single-season saves, and is one of only two goalies to be have been named MPSF Player of the Year.
KAMI CRAIG USA women's water polo
The only female player to win back-to-back Peter J. Cutino Awards as the nation's top collegiate water polo player, USC graduate Kami Craig is playing in her second Olympic Games. A 2008 silver medalist with Team USA, Craig took a break from USC for a season in order to train and compete for the United States in Beijing. Upon returning to USC, Craig helped the Trojans win a national championship in 2010 before closing down her USC career as a four-time All-American and USC's No. 8 all-time scorer. In addition to now being a two-time Olympian, Craig has helped the United States win the FINA World Championships in 2007 and 2009 and most recently was the team's second leading scorer at both the 2012 FINA World League Super Final and 2011 Pan American Games.
LAUREN WENGER USA women's water polo
The 2006 Peter J. Cutino Award winner as the nation's top collegiate water polo player in her senior season at USC, Lauren Wenger stands a a two-time Olympian with a silver medal won with Team USA at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. She has helped lead the United States to gold at the 2007 and 2009 FINA World Championships, picking up honors as the tournament MVP in 2007. As a Trojan, Wenger was a three-time All-American and helped USC make history as the first team to go undefeated in a season with a 29-0 finish en route to the 2004 NCAA Championship, finishing her career in 2006 as USC's No. 12 all-time scorer.
FLORA BOLONYAI Hungary women's water polo
A two-time All-American already after her first two seasons at USC, Flora Bolonyai is a first-time Olympian as she helped Hungary qualify for the 2012 Olympic Games in reaching the semifinals of April's qualification tournament. In her sophomore season at USC, Bolonyai helped lead the Trojans to the 2012 NCAA title match. She averaged 10.1 saves per game for USC at the MPSF and NCAA tournaments as she picked up honors on the NCAA All-Tournament Second Team and All-MPSF Second Team.
ANIKO PELLE Italy women's water polo
USC's all-time leading scorer, Aniko Pelle helped the Trojans win their first-ever national championship as a freshman in 1999. She is playing in her third Olympic Games, having played for Hungary in 2004 and 2008 before moving to Italy and marrying an Italian man, and is now competing for Italy in this 2012 Games in London. One of USC's most decorated athletes, Pelle was a four-time All-American and won the 2000 Peter J. Cutino Award as the nation's top collegiate water polo player.
SOFIA KONOUKH Russia women's water polo
The second leading scorer in USC history, Sofia Konoukh played three seasons at USC after making her Olympic debut and winning a bronze medal in 2000 with Russia. She would go on to appear in every Olympics thereafter, making her a four-time Olympian with this year's trip to the 2012 London Games. Konoukh earned back-to-back MPSF Player of the Year honors in her first two years at USC and finished as a three-time first team All-American.
ANNI ESPAR Spain women's water polo
First-time Olympian Anni Espar has signed on to join the Women of Troy as a freshman this coming season.