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Former O.C. stars help Team USA qualify for Olympics
Three former Orange County high school players have helped the U.S. women's water polo team secure a berth in next summer's Olympics in London.
Attacker Courtney Mathewson (Canyon), center and former Register player of the year Annika Dries (Laguna Beach) and backup goalie Tumau Anae (Corona del Mar) were part of the U.S. squad that defeated Canada, 27-26, in an epic shootout for the gold medal at the Pan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico on Friday.
Team USA earned a spot in the London Olympics with the victory, its third consecutive Pan American Games crown.
Mathewson played a huge role in the championship. Canada led, 7-3, midway through the third period but Mathewson scored three of the next four goals for the Americans.
The former All-County player scored with 4:39 left in the third to tied the score, 7-7. Center Kami Craig (Santa Barbara) locked the score, 8-8, and force overtime with a goal on extra with 31 seconds left in regulation.
After two scoreless, standard overtime periods, the shootouts began.
Both teams made their first five penalty shots, setting up sudden-death shootouts. The match wasn't settled until the 15th round of sudden-death shootouts as Maggie Steffens scored for Team USA and Canada's shot barred out.
The American ended up winning the overall shootout, 19-18.
"It was crazy, we prevailed because we believe in ourselves, there is no panic even when we are down by three or four," Mathewson said in a comment release by USA Water Polo. "I think we believed in each other and that was the difference. It was just an amazing game to be a part of."
Team USA's shooters in the penalty shots were (in an order that repeated four times): Kelly Rulon, Mathewson, Heather Petri, Brenda Villa and Maggie Steffens.