USC's Kami Craig and Lauren Wenger clutch for Team USA, and Anni Espar scores four for Spain to play for gold.
Aug. 7, 2012
Team USA Trojans Tumua Anae, Kami Craig and Lauren Wenger are assured an Olympic medal after a heart-pounding overtime win over Australia in today's semifinals. But with 2008 silver medals already hanging at home for Craig and Wenger, gold is the order of business for the Aug. 9 Olympic final. To get to the top of the podium in London, the U.S. squad will have to contend with another Trojan in the water. Incoming freshman Anni Espar and Spain are also on the hunt for gold after a 10-9 semifinal win today (Aug. 7). Both Team USA -- which has medaled in every Olympic Games -- and Spain -- making its first Olympic appearance -- are looking for their first gold medals. The 2012 gold-medal game is set for 12 p.m. PT on Thursday (Aug. 9) in London.
The burning desire to play for gold was glaringly clear today in the semis, with Team USA's Wenger breaking her scoring silence with two huge goals in the first half and a flurry of big field blocks to help anchor the USA defense at the other end. After a wild final seconds of regulation, Craig controlled things in overtime with key ejections earned and then the searing final nail with a power move and score at two meters to lift Team USA to the 11-9 overtime victory over bitter rival Australia.
The other semifinal of the day pitted two future Trojan teammates against one another. USC junior Flora Bolonyai is the Trojans' current goalie, and mans the cage for Hungary in her first Olympic appearance. Spain, which is making its first-ever Olympic appearance, has a strong force in Anni Espar, who is signed on to join USC as a freshman. In a tough semifinal battle Espar's scoring prowess helped super-charge Spain to a 10-9 win over Bolonyai's Hungary. Espar finished with four goals -- a high for her in the Games to date -- to give her 13 total goals scored entering the gold-medal game.
Bolonyai and Hungary will face off against Australia for bronze. The bronze-medal game is set for 10:40 a.m. PT on Aug. 9.
In the consolation semifinals, four-time Olympian and 2000 bronze medalist Sofia Konoukh charged up Russia with three goals to beat host Great Britain. The 11-9 win puts Russia in the fifth-place game against China. In the other consolation semi, Italy and USC grad Aniko Pelle fell 14-10 to China to move into the seventh-place game.
Follow all 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.