Neushul, Craig gear up for World Championships with Team USA


Team USA brings home bronze medal in Beijing at the 2013 FINA World League Super Final.

Santa Barbara Aquatics Club players Kami Craig (SBAC/SBHS/USC) and Kiley Neushul (SBAC/SBHS/Stanford) took Bronze in Beijing last week playing for Team USA at the 2013 FINA World League Super Final, held in the famed Olympic ?Water Cube? swimming stadium.

The Super Final included the top teams from the Americas, Asia, Europe, and Oceania. Eight nations competed including the US, Canada, Australia, Spain, Russia, Hungary, Italy and China. Each entrant is selected after a regional qualification tournament. The US was seeded first as defending World League Champions. The tournament included all three London Olympic medalists: US (Gold), Spain (Silver), and Australia (Bronze).

The Olympic champions played a close first game against host China on Day 1 of the tournament. Kami Craig scored from center to equal the game 9-9 at the end of the third and Kiley Neushul scored with nine seconds left to tie and push the game to a shootout. Both teams missed a shot in the regular penalty phase and the US missed first in sudden death falling 16-15.

Neushul remarked that ?it was one of the biggest crowds I?ve ever played in front of.? Subsequent victories over Russia (13-9) and Hungary (10-7) meant that the US advanced first out of their bracket and played fourth-place Canada in the crossover; winning a tight 6-5 victory over their North American rival, and advancing to the Semifinal game.

Team USA met China in the semi-final after the host nation defeated Italy in their crossover game. In another difficult game, the US spotted China a 4-1 lead with Craig scoring the game?s first goal. The US managed to draw even at 7-7 in the fourth but China responded leading 9-7 late in the quarter. Neushul missed off a set play in the last minute and China advanced to their first FINA World League Final.

The US met Hungary in the Bronze Medal match, once again spotting their opponent an early 5-1 lead. Team USA responded to the flurry, catching and passing the Hungarians in the final quarter for a 10-8 lead and cruising to win 10-9. Craig (2) and Neushul (1) both scored as the Team USA won Bronze in Beijing.

FINA World League is preparation for the summer?s main event: the 2013 World Championships to be held in Barcelona, Spain from July 21 to August 2.