WPWL 2010 (Women): Perennial rivals face off in gold-medal game

World League

World champion and reigning World League champion United States of America will play World Cup champion Australia for gold at the women’s water polo FINA World League Super Finals at La Jolla, California tomorrow. The four-time champion North Americans put paid to Greece’s hopes of a second crown, winning 9-7 while Australia came back from 4-2 down at halftime and twice gave up three-goal leads to beat Russia 8-7. The USA beat Greece 11-9 in the rounds and went out to 5-1 by halftime but allowed Greeec to win the final quarter 4-2 in a confident showing that augurs well for the final. It meant the USA was in its sixth final in seven attempts. Australia has four medals from the Super Finals but has played just the one gold-medal game, losing to the USA in Montreal three years ago.

Both teams have a running history at the Olympics with Australia’s only loss two years ago in Beijing to the USA in the semifinals. In Athens in 2004 the USA beat Australia for bronze and four years before in Sydney, Australia won 4-3 in the gold-medal final 1.3 seconds from time. Throw in a one-goal victory to the USA in the final at the Melbourne FINA World Championships in 2007 and there is a real competition within a competition. In the five-to-eight group, both matches went to penalty shootouts. Hungary, who lost by penalty shootout the day before, defeated Canada 11-9 after the game was locked at 8-8 at fulltime. China beat Olympic champion Netherlands 13-10 after a 9-9 fulltime scoreline. The Dutch went to pieces in the shootout while the Chinese converted four straight.

Group 5-8

Match 17. 14:30. L13 HUNGARY 11 L16 CANADA 9 in penalty shootout (FT: 8-8. Pens: 3-1)

5th-8th Semifinal

Quarters: 1-5, 3-2, 2-1, 2-0. Pens: 3-1

HUNGARY: Orsolya KASO, Hanna KISTELEKI, Rita POSZKOLI, Dora KISTELEKI, Gabriella SZUCS (5), Orsolya TAKACS (1), Rita DRAVUCZ (2), Rita KESZTHELYI, Ildiko TOTH, Barbara BUJKA (1), Agnes VALKAI (2), Patricia JANCSO, Aniko GYONGYOSSY. Head Coach: Matyas PETROVICS.

CANADA:  Rachel RIDDELL, Krystina ALOGBO (1), Katrina MONTON, Emily CSIKOS (5), Joelle BEKHAZI (1), Whitney GENOWAY, Rosanna TOMIUK, Dominique PERRAULT (1), Monika EGGENS, Christine ROBINSON, Tara CAMPBELL (1), Marina RADU, Marissa JANSSENS, Hanna VELIZAROVA. Head Coach: Pat OATEN.

This was like watching the Hungary-Greece game the day before, where Hungary’s opponent shot out to a first-quarter lead only to see the numbers whittle so far that the rules kicked in for a penalty shootout. Yesterday Canada won from the stripe but today it was all Hungary. The opening quarter said everything about Canada’s desire to finish top of the second group and set the team up for the Six-Nation tournament in Sydney, Australia, followed by the FINA World Cup in Christchurch, New Zealand in August. Hungary pulled back one of the goals in the second and another in the third. Gabriella SZUCS scored her fourth goal at the top of the fourth period, the action heated up in and out of the water. Canada’s Emily CSIKOS also had four goals for Canada, including a penalty conversion in the second quarter. The extra-man statistics favoured Canada with four from five in the first quarter. At 8-7, Canada worked hard to keep out Hungary while missing some high-percentage shots at the other end. Hungary took the fourth timeout at 1:42 but the subsequent shot was swatted down by Rachel RIDDELL Canada took a poor shooting option, which left two Hungarians free on counter and captain Rita DRAVUCZ scored from the top at 0:42 for 8-8. Both teams seemed to panic in the dying seconds with neither looking like scoring, forcing the shootout. Here it was not the fairytale story of yesterday for Canada but disaster. VALKAI and CSIKOS with her fifth goal and DRAVUCZ sent Hungary up but BEKHAZI, JANCSO and PERRAULT had shots blocked. SZUCZ, with her fifth, made it three from four for Hungary. Seventeen-year-old Hanna VELIZAROVA, who has sat out the past two games, sent her shot to the right and Hungary went to the fifth-sixth play-off. Hungarian coach Matyas PETROVICS said it was “crazy” in the first quarter with all the ejections. RIDDELL made 14 saves and Orsolya KASO stopped 13 for Hungary.

Match 18. 16:00. L14 NETHERLANDS 10 L15 CHINA 13 in penalty shootout (FT: 9-9. Pens: 1-4).

5th-8th Semifinal

Quarters: 2-1, 1-2, 2-3, 4-3. Pens: 1-4

NETHERLANDS: Ilsa VAN DER MEIJDEN, Yasemin SMIT (1), Mieke CABOUT (3), Biurakin HAKHVERDIAN, Sabrina VAN DER SLOOT (1), Nomi STOMPHORST (1), Iefke VAN BELKUM, Noeki KLEIN (1), Jantien CABOUT (2), Nienke VERMEER, Lieke KLAASSEN (1), Marloes NIJHUIS, Anne HEINES. Head Coach: Mauro MAUGERI.

CHINA: YANG Jun, TENG Fei (2), LIU Ping, SUN Yujun, HE Jin (1), SUN Yating (2), ZHANG Lei, GAO Ao (5), WANG Yi, MA Huanhuan, SONG Donglun (2), CHEN Yuan (1), ZHU Yating. Head Coach: Juan JANE.

This was a case of the time running out on one of the teams. So close were these teams that the game was levelled at every number with the Chinese taking the lead six times. As the clock ticked down it went to 7-7 before SONG delighted herself with a huge grin as she sent in an outside shot, which caught the goalie out as a defender deflected it further into the top right corner. With a Chinese exclusion 90 seconds later, the Dutch called a timeout and Jantien CABOUT received the fourth pass on the deep left-hand-catch position to level the game at 1:44. The celebrations at a possible fifth penalty shootout at this tournament were diminished when GAO Ao received the ball at deep left-hand catch and scored her fourth goal. The Dutch gained another extra-man chance and had the first shot blocked but regained and Mieke CABOUT levelled at 0:34. China earned an ejection but the resulting shot after the timeout was blocked. The Dutch also missed and we had out fifth penalty shootout. The Chinese were immaculate, shooting first and sending in four goals. Mieke CABOUT scored first for the Dutch but Sabrina VAN DER SLOOT and Yasemin SMIT both had their shots blocked by YANG Jun. There was some confusion as the Dutch thought they had to shoot again but could not win the game with only two rotations remaining.

Match 20. 17:30. W14 AUSTRALIA 8 W15 RUSSIA 7

1st-4th Semifinal

Quarters: 1-2, 1-2, 3-0, 3-3

AUSTRALIA: Victoria BROWN, Gemma BEADSWORTH (1), Sophie SMITH (1), Alicia BRIGHTWELL, Jane MORAN, Bronwen KNOX (2), Rowena WEBSTER (2), Glencora RALPH (1), Jemma DESSAUVAGIE, Zoe ARANCINI, Melissa RIPPON, Nicola ZAGAME (1), Kelsey WAKEFIELD,  Head Coach: Greg McFADDEN.

RUSSIA: Maria KOVTUNOVSKAYA, Anna TIMOFEEVA (1). Ekaterina PROKOFYEVA, Sofya KONUKH, Alexandra ANTONOVA, Natalia RYZHOVA-ALENICHEVA (1), Ekaterina TANKEEVA (1), Evgenia SOBOLEVA (1), Olexandra KARPOVICH, Olga BELYAEVA, Evgeniya IVANOVA (1), Yulia GAUFLER (1), Anna USTYUKHINA, Evgeniya PUSTYINNIKOVA (1). Head Coach: Alexandr KABANOV.

It took Australia until the final minute of the third period to gain the lead in a game where the play was stymied by both sides. Australia may have opened the scoring through captain Bronwen KNOX but Russia then scored three in a row. Nicola ZAGAME pulled one back with a long shot at the end of possession when most needed but Evgenia SOBOLEVA responded immediately to close out the first half with a two-goal margin. There was no panic in the Aussie camp but much was needed to get back into the game. Rowena WEBSTER became the hero with two goals — one on extra and the other on penalty —  to level at 4:57. Australia took a timeout and Gemma BEADSWORTH’s resulting shot was blocked but Glencora RALPH toiled strongly at one metre and flicked the loose ball into goal. That lead came at 0:58. Russia struggled in the next period and Australia pounced, missing several Jane MORAN counter-attack chances amidst two magnificent centre-forward goals from BEADSWORTH and KNOX, arguably two of the best two-metre players in the world. With the lead at three, Russia fired back through Anna TIMOFEEVA, with her own spectacular centre-forward goal. The fourth goal in two and a half minutes went the Aussie Stingers’ way when Smith drove close in to score. , Natalia RYZHOVA-ALENICHEVA slithered in a shot cross-cage, under the left arm of Victoria BROWN, who until that point had 13 saves. In the third period she made five saves, which gave the Aussies the impetus to grab the lead. Australia was hesitant on an extra-man play and Russia gained the ball, went on counter and Yulia GAUFLER seized the moment with a long-range lob into the top right for 8-7 down at 2:00. Australia lost the ball at two metres and botched a defensive position, allowing a Russia lob, which BROWN saved. The Stingers played out time and Russia went to a timeout at 0:11. Russia played the ball in, gained a foul and Soya KONUKH shot but not from the right position, leaving Australia to hold the ball a few seconds and walk into the gold-medal final.

Match 19. 19:00. W13 GREECE 7 W16 UNITED STATES OF AMERICA 9

1st-4th Semifinal

Quarters: 1-2, 0-3, 2-2, 4-2

GREECE:  Maria TSOURI, Christina TSOUKALA, Konstantina KOUTELI, Ilektra PSOUNI (1), Kyriaki LIOSI, Alkisti AVRAMIDOU (1), Alexandra ASIMAKI (2), Antigoni ROUMPESI (1), Angeliki GEROLYMOU, Triantafyllia MANOLIOUDAKI, (1) Stavroula ANTONAKOU, Vasileia MAVRELOU (1), Eleni KOUVDOU. Head Coach: Georgios MORFESIS.

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Elizabeth ARMSTRONG, Heather PETRI, Erika FIGGE (1), Brenda VILLA (3), Lauren WENGER, Margaret STEFFENS (1), Lauren SILVER, Elsie WINDES, Kelly RULON (1), Annika DRIES (1), Kameryn CRAIG (1), Melissa SEIDEMANN, Courtney MATHEWSON (1). Head Coach: Adam KRIKORIAN.

The USA earned a stunning sixth gold-medal appearance from seven attempts with what was an easy-looking victory. The USA must have thought 11-9 in the rounds was not enough as it went into the second period with a commanding 5-1 advantage. A shutout in the second quarter left everyone with the distinct impression that a big win was at hand. However, Greece stunned the USA with two quick goals inside the first two minutes of the third quarter with captain Antigoni ROUMPESI scoring from five metres and Alexandra ASIMAKI muscling in a shot from two metres. Greece’s drop defence on the powerful USA centre forwards left the USA to strike from outside. Captain Brenda VILLA speared a shot into the top right and then Kelly RULON converted extra for 7-3. Both teams shut the shop for the next four minutes until an errant shot from RULON earned an ejection and Greece went to a timeout. The shot from ASIMAKI was blocked by the defence and the USA went into the last quarter with a four-goal margin. The USA went a further two goals out through VILLA from the top and Maggie STEFFENS from four metres. A clock malfunction disrupted proceedings and Greece made the most of it to score courtesy of Ilektra PSOUNI. ASIMAKI, working hard all week at two metres, lifted Greece with a centre-forward backhander for 9-5 at 3:17 — statistically still in with a chance. The next Greek attack was critical but Betsy ARMSTRONG virtually sealed the match with a block. The USA called a timeout and couldn’t score of the play but time ticked down. Greece gained two consolation goals through Alkisti AVRAMIDOU and Vasileia MAVRELOU on extra for 9-7.