Women's Water Polo World Cup 2010, Day 1: Aussie Stingers swamp Kiwis on opening night

Water Polo World Cup

Defending champion Australia won big on the opening day of the 15th FINA Women's Water Polo World Cup at QE II Stadium in Christchurch. The Aussie Stingers defeated a gutsy New Zealand 17-4 in the last game of the night in a game where New Zealand scored first and trailed just 4-3 early in the second quarter. However, Australia swam away with the game and the lead in Group B where the world champion United States of America downed European champion Russia in the opening game.

As the night hotted up and the crowd swelled, China had the better of Greece 11-7 after the European team — third at the FINA World League Super Finals last month — blew a first-quarter dominance. In the other Group A match, Canada produced its best form of the year with a 14-10 margin over Hungary, a late inclusion to the event.

The opening night followed the opening ceremony yesterday when all the teams and officials were treated to a powhiri — a Maori welcome — on a local marae, entering the meeting house to be entertained by the Maori concert group. It must be said that some of the athletes and officials were called upon to dance, sing, swing the pois and do the haka — the traditional Maori war dance.

This is the third time a FINA event has been held at this stadium with the 1988 version of the women’s FINA World Cup staged here, along with the FINA Masters Games in 2002.

The United States of America made sure of an excellent start and a possible third world crown to go with the world and world league titles gained in the past year. At 3-1 up by the quarter, the Silver Lining started when Lauren SILVER netted three straight to push the USA 6-1 ahead with the last two on penalty. Russia came back through Sofya KONUKH and Evgeniya IVANOVA, the first from the penalty line and the latter from the top. At 7-3 down, Russia, while not in turmoil, needed to strike back but Kelly RULON and Kami CRAIG straddled Olga BELYAEVA’S excellent extra-man score off the left-post position for a 9-5 advantage. Then Kami CRAIG struck twice, on extra and from two metres, either side of a KONUKH score on extra. The four-goal margin became five when Anne BELDEN lobbed the Russian goalkeeper but Russia hit back twice through IVANOVA and BELYAEVA for 11-8 at the final break. Russia had the better of the final quarter but a missed penalty attempt by KONUKH meant the USA was one goal up on the scoreboard. The higher work rate of the North Americans.

Quarters: 3-1, 4-2, 4-5, 3-2

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Elizabeth ARMSTRONG (C), Anne BELDEN (1), Melissa SEIDEMANN, Brenda VILLA, Margaret STEFFENS, Juliet MOSS, Courtney MATHEWSON (1), Lauren SILVER (3), Elsie WINDES (1), Kelly RULON (3), Annika DRIES (2), Kameryn CRAIG (3), Emily FEHER. Head Coach: Adam KRIKORIAN.

RUSSIA: Evgeniya PROTSENKO, Nadezda GLYZINA (1), Ekaterina PROKOFYEVA, Sofya KONUKH (C, 4), Evgeniya PUSTYINNIKOVA, Natalia RYZHOVA-ALENICHEVA, Ekaterina TANKEEVA, Evgenia SOBOLEVA, Anna TIMOFEEVA, Olga BELYAEVA (2), Evgeniya IVANOVA (2), Yulia GAUFLER (1), Maria KOVTUNOVSKAYA. Head Coach: Alexandr KABANOV.

credit: Russell McKinnon


Adam KRIKORIAN (USA) — Head Coach

“It was a good start, we wanted to play better than we did in Sydney and get off to a positive start and I think that is exactly what we did today. I’m happy offensively, obviously we had a very good day and although we gave up ten goals I feel like we were much better defensively than we were last week and that’s a positive sign to take in the next few games."

“Six games in six days is tough no question so we are going to be smart about how we play this group play and make sure everyone gets an opportunity and equal playing time and that is certainly what happened today. I was subbing pretty freely and I think you can expect that to continue in the next couple of games.”

Alexandr KABANOV (RUS) — Head Coach

“We were still sleeping at the start and only woke up in the second half. Then we warmed up. This was not as good as we can play. We know we can play much better."

“Considering the system of the tournament this game was not as important as later in the week but now we have no idea who we will play in the quarter-finals. We just need to find our game and play to our maximum ability. The USA played a much higher level and had more desire today.”

Sofya KONUKH (RUS) — Captain

“It’s the same as the coach says. We played at a different time to Sydney — in the afternoon instead oft evening and we are still adjusting.”

There was never going to be anything in this game and at 3-1 ahead early in the second quarter, Greece looked odds on to win. However, China shot back with two goals to LIU Ping to level the game. Unusually for Antigoni ROUMPESI, she had her penalty shot stopped but she responded with a goal on the next attack. Either side of halfway China scored three in a row for a 6-5 lead, HE Jin taking the lead from the top. Stavroula ANTONAKOU scored from the penalty line to level but two smart goals from MA Huanhuan from outside gave China the lead at the final break. The 4-1 score line proved crucial in the period. Both teams went to a timeout and neither managed to get a clear shot to the goalkeeper, such was the defence. ROUMPESI gave Greece hope with a lob from well outside but GAO Ao responded with a rifling shot from seven metres for 9-7. The killer punch came just inside two minutes when MA picked up a loose ball after the extra-man chance and squeezed it in from the deep right-hand-catch position. 

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

GREECE: Maria TSOURI, Christina TSOUKALA, Konstantina KOUTELI, Ilektra PSOUNI (1), Kyriaki LIOSI (C), Alkisti AVRAMIDOU, Alexandra ASIMAKI (1), Antigoni ROUMPESI (3), Angeliki GEROLYMOU (1), Triantafylia MANOLIOUDAKI, Stavroula ANTONAKOU (1), ANTONIA SOLANAKI, Eleni KOUVDOU. Head Coach: Georgios MORFESIS.

CHINA: YANG Jun, TENG Fei, LIU Ping (3), SUN Yujun, HE Jin (1), SUN Yating, SONG Donglun (1), GAO Ao (3), WANG Yi, MA Huanhuan (3), SUN Huizi (C), ZHANG Lei, CHEN Yuan. Head Coach: Juan JANE GIRALT.

credit: Russell McKinnon


Juan JANE GIRALT (CHN) — Head Coach

“It was not a good start for us but slowly slowly we came back and played a correct game. It was a good physical game. In the last two quarters we played very well again. I was happy for the team as it dreams to be in with the top teams in the world, face to face. This is a very important experience where we have games, make mistakes and improve a little each day.”

Georgios MORFESIS (GRE) — Head Coach

“After the second period we didn’t have the solution of offence. It was a different game. The missed penalty did not help but we need to have more energy to play these games and we didn’t have that today. Our goalkeeper (Maria TSOURI) did not play so well today. Traditionally we rely on her heavily. She is the most important player for us. Now we have to focus on the next game and the cross-overs but it is very hard in our group.”

Canada came out to play and started brilliantly in a game packed with emotion and speed. The high intensity saw Canada streak to a 3-1 lead and then 4-2 before Agnes VALKAI scored her second goal six seconds from the first hooter on penalty. Earlier, captain Rita DRAVUCZ, fresh from her marriage in Hungary, also scored on penalty. DRAVUCZ converted an extra-man chance early in the second quarter to level at four but Canada struck twice, firstly through Christine ROBINSON from the top and then Dominique PERRAULT from a similar position. Newcomer to the Hungarian team, Kata MENCZINGER, scored from right-hand catch. Canada went to a timeout a minute from the half and Marina RADU scored off the near-post position for 7-5. Just before the long break, Rita KESZTHELYI sent one in from seven metres off a free throw six seconds from time. The pendulum swung Hungary’s way in the third quarter but not until after Canada scored twice for 9-6. Goals were traded for 10-7 and then Gabriella SZUCS and Orsolya TAKACS scored quickly for a one-goal deficit. Joelle BEKHAZI scored her second from outside but VALKAI replied for her third with two minutes left in the third period. The fiercely supporting Hungarian crowd maintained its shouting and stomping in the fourth but it was Canada who struck first through ROBINSON on extra at 5:36 for 12-10. Hungary called a timeout but no joy and a lob from the top went over on the next attack. Canada was cool but still trying to press home the advantage. Canada took command with a long pass to captain Krystina ALOGBO on the two-metre line, turning and scoring for 13-10 at 2:25. Campbell repeated the dose on the next attack for 14-10 for what was the final score.

Quarters: 3-4, 3-3, 4-4, 0-3

HUNGARY: Orsolya KASO, Hanna KISTELEKI, Rita POSZKOLI, Dora ANTAL, Gabriella SZUCS (1), Orsolya TAKACS, Rita DRAVUCZ (C, 2), Rita KESZTHELYI (2), Ildiko TOTH (1), Barbara BUJKA, Agnes VALKAI (3), Kata MENCZINGER (1), Aniko GYONGYOSSY, Mercedes STIEBER. Head Coach: Matyas PETROVICS.

CANADA: Rachel RIDDELL, Krystina ALOGBO (C, 1), Katrina MONTON, Emily CSIKOS (1), Joelle BEKHAZI (2). Whitney GENOWAY, Rosanna TOMIUK (1), Dominique PERRAULT (2), Monika EGGENS (1), Christine ROBINSON (2), Tara CAMPBELL (2), Marina RADU (2), Marissa JANSSENS. Head Coach: Pat OATEN.


Krystina ALOGBO (CAN) — Captain

“We played as a team. We noticed their weaknesses and worked on them. They scored two five-metres shots but we went out and kept shooting and scoring. We controlled the game and we were pumped up. Their backup goalie came in and we kept shooting and seeing the openings. We stepped up.”

Pat OATEN (CAN) — Head Coach

“I’m obviously very happy with the result but we had a series of breakdowns and we need to adjust. We played a lot of players in Sydney (last week) so fatigue was not a major issue. In Sydney the players gained a lot of confidence as did the coaches in putting them in. When they switched goalkeepers (at three-quarter time) we were not surprised. They did this to us at the Super Finals (in California last month) and it caught us off guard but mentally we tried not to change (tonight).”

Rita DRAVUCZ (HUN) — Captain

“Our six on five was not good. We have to do better. But with a young team (average age 22) we did many beautiful things. We will be better for the match and, of course, we want to win every time.”

Defending champion Australia started quietly enough and even conceded the first goal to the host nation but no-one could have factored in the SOUTHERN equation, unless you came from Australia. The 18-year-old impressed powerfully just what a talent she is with a four-goal haul in the victory. With Casie BOWRY lighting up the crowd it was a three-goal burst from the Aussie Stingers with Gemma BEADSWORTH twice and Nicola ZAGAME giving the green caps the lead. The Kiwis scored two of the next three goals with Emma STONEMAN and Lynlee SMITH bringing the score to 4-3 behind. Then the Aussies struck a purple patch with SOUTHERN weaving her magic with a bullet-proof shot, scoring twice in the second and twice in the third before being given a rest. ZAGAME made it 10-3 on counter. Holly LINCOLN-SMITH drew a penalty and captain Bronwen KNOX converted. Sophie SMITH closed the period for 12-3. The news was the same in the final quarter with ZAGAME, SMITH and BEADSWORTH stretching the margin to 15-3 before SMITH broke the Kiwi drought at 1:27 left in the game. Glencora RALPH lobbed Carina HARACHE with a minute to go for 16-4. Jane MORAN nailed the last for 17-4.

Quarters: 2-4, 1-3, 0-5, 1-5

NEW ZEALAND:  Carina HARACHE, Emily COX, Emma STONEMAN (1), Danielle LEWIS, Alexandra BOYD, Lynlee SMITH (2), Isabella MORRISON, Lauren SIEPRATH, Anna SIEPRATH (C), Casie BOWRY (1), Kirsten HUDSON, Shann ELLS-TEWHIU, Dana HARVEY. Head Coach: Eelco URI.

AUSTRALIA: Victoria BROWN, Gemma BEADSWORTH (3), Sophie SMITH (2), Holly LINCOLN-SMITH (1), Jane MORAN (1), Bronwen KNOX (C, 1), Rowena WEBSTER (1), Glencora RALPH (1), Zoe ARANCINI, Ashleigh SOUTHERN (4), Melissa RIPPON, Nicola ZAGAME (3), Lea BARTA. Head Coach: Greg McFADDEN.

credit: Russell McKinnon


Greg McFADDEN (AUS) — Head Coach

“It was a physically tough game. New Zealand were certainly here to play and I have to give them full credit for pushing us in the first half. When we eliminated our stupid play we went 5-0 in the third quarter. It was hard to score goals when we were turning the ball over. It was good to see Lea Barta, Zoe Arancini and Ash Southern play their first World Cup games and four nice goals to Ash and some nice saves from Lea (in goal). That’s the first game over and done and now we have to focus on the USA tomorrow.”

Lea BARTA (AUS) — Goalkeeper

“It was very exciting to play my first major game in a big tournament. I was nervous but very excited at the same time. Saving the one-on-one was the best — I got it! I’m looking forward to playing more games (here) and winning them.”

Eelco URI (NZL) — Head Coach

"I'm pleased with the way we played. I'm not happy with the result but I'm happy with how we played, the way we hand in there, we work hard, we see what we need to do.''

Uri said the score was large, in Australia's favour. "But we got an aggressive start. We show respect but we're never afraid to give it a crack. The girls played well. Of course we made mistakes but we gave the answers tonight as well. We made some mistakes but we saw some good water polo out there.''

Australia was the number one team in the world, Uri said. "The Aussies are definitely one of the fastest teams, they're the fastest, they counterattack, we had to work hard. It was a massive effort.''

However, Uri said the New Zealanders had been working on aspects of their game over the past couple of months, which they had been able to demonstrate in the pool tonight.