Los Altos resident Kim Krueger and her U.S. teammates couldn't wait to get in the pool to face Canada for the women's water polo championship at the Junior Pan American Games.
Their anxiousness went beyond wanting to avenge an earlier loss to the Canadians; this was personal. Krueger said the Canadians had disrespected the national anthem, exuded overconfidence and were anything but gracious hosts during the 10-day tournament in Montreal.
"They didn't talk or say hi to us at all," the Menlo School senior said. "It was weird - they came off being rude. We were focused and serious, too, but were still social."
Which may explain why players from other participating countries, such as Mexico and Brazil, were rooting for Team USA in the Aug. 15 final, according to Krueger.
Despite being a few years younger than the Canadians - the U.S. sent its under-17 team to a tournament open to those under 20 - the Americans emerged with a 6-4 victory.
"I think they were a little embarrassed," said Krueger, who started at attacker in the game. "It was kind of nice to beat them."
Only the medal ceremony was sweeter than the win itself. It was the highlight of the trip for Krueger. This time the Canadians couldn't turn their backs during the national anthem, which Krueger said they did for the anthems of all the opposing teams prior to matches.
"When we got our medals, they played our national anthem, and we were singing it loud and proud on the podium," she said.
Team USA went 6-1 in the tourney, with its only loss coming to Canada by a 7-5 score on the first day. Krueger played significant minutes in every game and started the final. She scored four goals in a rout of Mexico and made several steals and assists helping her team stun Canada in the gold-medal game.
"They got cocky and thought they'd roll over us," the 17-year-old Krueger said of the more experienced Canadians. "But we were a different team by then."
Team USA bonded in and out of the pool as the event wore on, according to Krueger, and benefited from having a deep squad.
"Having a full bench kept us rested," she said. "We were swimming up and down the pool and (the Canadians) couldn't keep up. In the third and fourth quarters we were still on the counterattack and playing defense; they had no counterattack and were struggling."
Conditioning hasn't been a problem for Krueger, whose work ethic no doubt helped her beat out more than 200 players vying for a spot on the 12-member U.S. team.
Returning from Montreal with only two days to rest before Menlo began practices for the fall water polo season was just fine with Krueger.
"It will be fun," the 5-foot-9 lefty said. "It's nice to be busy."
Krueger's attitude has played a big part in her developing into an all-league water polo player and swimmer, according to her mom.
"She's really motivated and she enjoys it," Marcia Krueger said. "Every time she's in the pool, she's having fun."