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U.S. Team Beats Ukraine, Italy, Hungary Through

July 23, 1996

ATLANTA (AP) _ The United States, paced by Chris Humbert’s three goals, virtually assured itself of a spot in the quarterfinals of the Olympic water polo tournament by beating Ukraine 9-7 Monday.

The Americans (2-1) still have to play Croatia and Romania in the preliminary round-robin group. While Croatia is one of the stronger teams, Romania so far has been the weakest.

Four teams from each of the six-nation groups will advance to the quarterfinals, when the tournament becomes single elimination. The higher the Americans place in their group, the easier the opponent they will meet in the quarterfinals.

Humbert, who scored four goals in Sunday’s 9-7 win over Greece, now has eight in three games.

Against Ukraine, though, the Americans couldn’t convert early in the game. They missed several good scoring chances in the first quarter and hit the bar three times in the second.

The game was tied 7-7 in the fourth period when the U.S. luck seemed to turn.

Vadym Rozhdestvensky hit the bar for Ukraine, then Chris Oeding’s second goal at the other end of the pool put the Americans ahead to stay, sending the crowd of 4,000 at Georgia Tech Aquatic Center into a frenzy.

Humbert then hit another of his trademark backhand shots with 1:53 left to give the Americans their first two-goal lead. Chris Duplanty made a good save when the United States was down a man and Mike Evans made a key block to preserve the American victory.

Ukraine led by 3-2 after two periods, but Humbert took advantage of a power play to even the score early in the third. One minute later, Ukraine was back in the lead, thanks to the second of Andrei Kovalenko’s three goals.

The lead swapped hands several times, with Humbert scoring on a backhand to make it 5-5. Kovalenko silenced the crowd with another goal, then Kyle Kopp scored two in a row to give the Americans a 7-6 lead heading to the final period. Aleks Potulnytsky scored the final Ukraine goal to even the score again.

Ukraine (0-2-1) has virtually no chance of making it to the medal round.

Earlier, defending champion Italy posted its third straight victory, beating Croatia 10-8 to move into the quarterfinals.

Hungary, which is in a different group, also went to 3-0 and earned a place in the quarters by beating the Netherlands 10-8 behind four goals apiece from Tibor Benedek and Zsolt Varga.

Two other teams are likely to move to the next round, as well.

Yugoslavia, barred from the Barcelona Games four years ago because of United Nations sanctions, beat 1992 silver medalist Spain 9-7, while Russia defeated Germany 10-8.

Greece, beaten by the United States on Sunday, returned to the pool Monday afternoon and posted its first victory in three games by overcoming Romania 8-5.

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