Local athlete plays for gold

By Tadzio Garcia

The U.S. women’s water polo team advanced to the gold medal match against Spain, which they earlier tied after beating Australia in overtime 11-9 in the semifinals.

Four-time Olympian Brenda Villa of Commerce tweeted after the victory over Australia, “USA wins! We get an opportunity to fight for a gold medal! #lovemyteam@USAWP.”

The women’s water polo team has never won an Olympic gold medal.

The sport was introduced at the 2000 Sydney Games, with the U.S. winning a silver medal followed by bronze in Athens (2004) and silver in Beijing (2008).

The U.S. team is guaranteed a medal this week but will it be the one that has eluded them, the gold?

Villa told reporters the gold medal would be the frosting on the cake.  “I think if I do get another opportunity to play in a final and if it doesn’t turn out the way I want, I need to be a better Olympian and appreciate the moment,” Villa said. (nbcolympics.com/athletes)

Villa is team captain for the second straight Olympics (gostanford.com, July 27, 2012) with a take charge attitude and a proven scorer.

Villa began her Olympic journey by scoring nine goals in Sydney. She added seven goals in Athens and nine in Beijing.  In London, Villa scored two goals in the 9-6 quarterfinal victory over Italy.

In the finals against Spain, Team USA faces a team they tied, 9-9, in first round group play. Villa proved she is a great reader against Spain.

At 3:48 left in the third quarter, Villa lobbed the ball over teammate Elsie Winds towards the net. Winds was then able to legally move into the two-meter line where she scored one second later, pulling the U.S. within a goal of Spain, 4-5.

As an attacker, Villa scored against Spain, with 4:49 left in the game, on an off-speed shot.

Also in the first round group play, Team USA outlasted China. After being dowm 1-3 in the sedcond quater, Team USA scored five goals to take command of the game. An unguarded Villa scored with 7:30 left in the game to give the U.S. its biggest lead, 6-3.

It was a great set up.

UCLA graduate Kelley Rulon slid up to the right pocket while Villa’s defender pulled towards Rulon. Villa slid left. Rulon turned and passed to Villa who immediately placed the ball perfectly, shooting in the lane for the score. With the momentum, the U.S. held China to six goals for the victory.

Win or lose, Villa told London reporters that she is retiring after the London Olympics (nbcolympics.com/team-usa). Villa will end her career with four Olympic medals, maybe one of them gold.

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