Perth 2012, Day 8 (Women): Greece youngsters join Greece women on top of the world

World Youth Water Polo Championships

HUN vs GRE - credit: Anthony PearseDecember 9, 2012 PERTH - Greece’s youngsters played like true champions as they tore the heart out of their Hungarian rivals with a spell-binding 9-5 women’s gold-medal victory on Sunday, played in front of 1100 fans. It was the culmination of the women’s programme at the FINA World Youth Water Polo Championships in Perth’s Challenge Stadium. Competing in a pool that has seen its fair share of FINA water polo medals awarded, the Greeks were forceful in all facets of the game and were not backward in coming forward when it came to taking lower-percentage shots at goal. Some came off, others didn’t.

Russia took home the bronze medal with a come-from-behind victory over United States of America. Russia won this age group world championship in 2009 and impressed here but has to settle for bronze. The matches were played between the men’s bronze-medal and gold-medal matches in the main pool. Russia’s Elvina Karimova was named most valuable player and Greece’s Chrysoula Diamantopoulou the best goalkeeper.

Day 8 Match Reports


CLASSIFICATION 3-4 (Bronze Medal)
Quarters: 4-4, 3-4,
Referees: Axel Bender (GER), Michael Brooks (NZL)
Extra Man: RUS 2/5, USA 1/5
Pens:  RUS 0/1, USA 1/1
RUSSIA: Alina Litovchenko, Olga Kiseleva, Anastasia Simanovich (1), Elvina Karimova (6), Natalia Perfilyeva (4), Alina Tuchina, Tatiana Zubkova, Daria Ryzhkova (1), Ksenia Balay, Liubov Zubkova, Nadezhda Yarondaykina, Yana Degtereva, Anastasia Verkhoglyadova, Head Coach: Alexandr Naritca.
USA: Gabrielle Stone, Mackenzie Barr (3), Melissa Bergesen (2), Mary Brooks, Makenzie Fischer (2), Devin Grab (1), Danijela Jackovich, Emily Loughlin (2), Madison McLaren, Stephanie Mutafyan (1), Cassidy Papa, Alys Williams (1), Carlee Kapana. Head Coach: Kyle Kopp.

RUS vs USA - credit: Anthony Pearse

A resurgent Russia has fought back from three goals down half way through the third term to defeat the United States of America 13-12 in their bronze medal playoff on Day 9 at Challenge Stadium, Perth. The game was played at a ferocious speed with both teams scoring the majority of their goals in action play.

Elvina Karimova and Natalia Perfilyeva were the stars for Russia, while both US centre forwards - Mackenzie Barr and Devin Grab – were dominant. Karimova said it was “wonderful” to win the match and said it was a fantastic feeling to share the bronze medal with all her teammates.

“The game was very hard for us to play today,” Karimova said. “I am the captain. I have to play hard and put in goals but behind me is a strong team. All the girls did their best during the game. We played like a team.”

The two nations exchanged early goals with the pace picking up with each possession. Russia landed the first through the tournament’s leading scorer Karimova, before Grab powered home two at centre forward. The USA employed a strong defensive press in the early stages, terrorising the Russian attack while also causing headaches for their defence.

Barr and Stephanie Mutafyan each found the back of the net to cancel out scores from Alina Tuchina, Nadezhda Yarondaykina and Karimova; 4-4 at quarter time. The defensive pressure eventually dropped off in the second and goals started to flow.

The USA was unable to contain the shooting prowess of Karimova – 38 goals for the tournament – and Natalia Perfilyeva – 24 goals for the tournament – while the Americans continued to work the two metres with Barr, Melissa Bergesen, Makenzie Fischer and Emily Loughlin all capitalising.

Russia scored early in the third to level at 8-8, before the Americans opened a two goal advantage through a third centre forward strike to Barr and a first to Alys Williams. Bergesen then converted from within five metres on the right hand post to increase the lead to three.

Not for the first time Russia was able to rebound with two goals to Karimova and Perfilyeva to restore the one goal half time deficit. The final term was played at an even quicker pace with both teams racing up and down the pool. Karimova and Perfilyeva continued to carry the burden of their team’s attacking options, while the USA’s focus was again centred on a quick break and strong 2m offence.

That strategy ultimately failed with 1:10 remaining as Daria Ryzhkova and Perfilyeva pressurised the ball carrier eventual stealing possession – only for Perfilyeva to flick the ball to her partner in crime allowing Ryzhkova to slot home for 13-12. The Americans had one last chance to power home an equaliser – and after coach Kyle Kopp called a timeout with 14 seconds remaining – the USA had a chance, but their attempt was deflected wide leaving the Russians to celebrate in delight.

A dejected Barr said her team had given their all, but unfortunately fell short as Russia proved too strong. “I feel bummed, but we definitely learned a lot. This is our first big tournament, we put a lot of time into training and preparing for this. Of course we’re disappointed, but we were neck and neck the whole time, and Russia was able to capitalise on our mistakes,” Barr said.

“We came to win, but you can always learn from these games. We’ve had a taste at the medal and this is just going to give us more drive. I now know what it feels like to come this close and not get the medal, so next time I want to do everything in my power to get the medal.”

Game 48: 15:30, HUNGARY 5 GREECE 9
Quarters: 0-2, 2-4, 1-2, 2-1
Referees: Amber Drury (USA), Alessandro Severo (ITA)
Extra Man: HUN 3/5, GRE 3/7
Pens: Nil
HUNGARY: Anna Horvath, Anna Krisztina Illes, Diana Ziegler (1), Greta Gurisatti, Ibolya Kitti Miskolczi (1), Vivien Kovesdi, Alexa Anett Gemes, Krisztina Garda (2), Diana Sikter, Nikolett Kele, Brigitta Horvath (1), Orsolya Hajor, Vanda Zsanett Doroszlai. Head Coach: Attila Mihok.
GREECE: Chrysoula Diamantopoulou, Alkistis Christina Benekou (1), Eleftheria Plevritou (3), Ioli Angelike Benekou, Eleni Xenaki, Ionna Charalampidi (1), Aikaterini Zantou (1), Margarita Plevritou, Christina Kotsia, Stefania Charalampidi (3), Marina Florou, Stamatina Kontogianni, Stefania Terefou. Head Coach: Georgios Morfesis.

The Greek golden team - credit: Anthony Pearse

Greece’s youngsters played like true champions as they tore the heart out of their Hungarian rivals with a spell-binding 9-5 women’s gold-medal victory on Sunday, played in front of 1100 fans. Competing in a pool that has seen its fair share of FINA water polo medals awarded, the Greeks were forceful in all facets of the game and were not backward in coming forward when it came to taking lower-percentage shots at goal. Some came off, others didn’t.

Greece was on top from the start to the finish and kept Hungary scoreless until midway through the second period. Goals were hard to come by with the tournament’s best goalkeeper Chrysoula Diamantopoulou (GRE) rising high and presenting a formidable presence. But her work was made easier by the quick-moving defence at one end and the accurate attack at the other, spearheaded by Stefania Charalampidi, a left-hander whose mirror identical twin Ioanna was playing the other side of the pool.

Super coach Georgios Morfesis, victorious with the Greece women in Shanghai last year, now has another world title in his collection.

“My emotions are all over the place, I’m really happy,” Morfesis said. “This is my second time getting a world championship gold medal, and I’m very proud that I coached both of the teams.”

“I’m very proud of the girls. They are a very talented team. They showed it in the previous years with their gold medal in the European championship. And the future belongs to them.”

Greece kept Hungary scoreless in the first quarter by a variety of factors from poor shooting, wood hits and excellent Greek defence. Greece opened early through 15-year-old Eleftheria Plevritou, who is three years younger than centre-forward sister Margarita, who is also on the team.

Standout centre forward Alkistis Benekou used her power shooting on extra-man attack to close the period at 2-0, three seconds from the buzzer. Eleftheria Plevritou repeated her shooting antics, this time from well outside, for the first goal more than three minutes into the quarter for 3-0.

Brigitta Horvath opened Hungary’s account from centre forward on the next attack but Ioanna Charalampidi on the deep left and Stefania Charalampidi on the right proved fatal for Hungary with Stefania scoring two after her sister for a 6-2 turnaround margin.

With the match stretching to 7-2 when Aikaterini Zantou shot a lob on the first attack, Hungary’s hopes seemed dashed. However, Hungary persevered despite the smothering defence forcing shots wide. That perseverance was rewarded when Diana Ziegler was swift on extra man, firing in a rocket for 7-2 at the two-minute mark.

Greece was still playing on high-octane fuel and Stefania Charalampidi brought up her third with a skip for 8-3 six seconds from the final break. Benekou made sure of a margin worthy of a champion from centre forward on the first attack. However, Hungary scored the final two goals but the last came from long range, 2:30 from time. Greece closed the gate and made sure of gold and then started the celebrations.

Stefania Charalampidi said it was a fantastic feeling to win gold and said their journey to get here made the victory even better. “In the beginning we weren’t practising as a team, because we were missing a few of the girls. When we started, against Russia, we weren’t going so well, but as we played on we got better and better as a team.”

Hungary’s stars Anna Illes and Alexa Gemes were kept scoreless as Hungary struggled to find a purchase in any part of the game. Timeouts in the second and third quarters failed to earn goals, while several certain goals hit wood on the goalkeeper.

Hungarian coach Attila Mihok was disappointed with the loss, but said the girls would learn immensely from their efforts.

“I am feeling very bad and very disappointed,” Mihok said. “I think Greece was better in every position today. They deserved the win, the score was normal. But this team is going up.”

Leading Goal-scorers

Elvina Karimova (RUS) - 38*
Izabella Chiappini (BRA) - 32
Natalia Perfilyeva (RUS) - 24
Karolina Hlavata (CZE) - 22
Anastasia Simanovich (RUS) - 22*
Caitlin Lopes da Silva (NZL) - 21
Giuditta Galardi (ITA) - 18
Arianna Gragnolati (ITA) - 18
Rae Lekness (CAN) - 18
Rebecca Parkes (NZL) - 18
Eleftheria Plevritou (GRE) - 16
Chiara Tabani (ITA) - 16
Mackenzie Barr (USA) - 14
Alkistis Benekou (GRE) - 14
Claudia Marletta (ITA) - 14
Chloe Barr (AUS) - 13
Stefania Charalampidi (GRE) - 13
Sarah Dario (ITA) - 13
Alexa Gemes (HUN) - 13
Anna Illes (HUN) - 13
Shannon Martin (AUS) - 13
Nikola Busauerova (CZE) - 11
Margarita Plevritou (GRE) - 11   

*Simanovic inadvertently awarded one Karimova goal in match 36