Super Final 2013 (Women): China wins historic first international crown

World League

BEIJING, China (June 6) - China beat Russia 8-7 for its first international senior women’s crown on the final day of the FINA Women’s Water Polo World League Super Final at the Water Cube in Beijing. China was never headed, but had to fend off a resilient, youthful Russia all the way, en route to its first FINA World League medal and in front of several thousand adoring fans. For Russia it was a second silver to go with gold and bronze from previous editions.

Two Russian coaches steered the teams to the final with former Russian women’s coach Alexander KLEYMENOV at the head of China’s fortunes. New Russian coach Mikhail NAKORYAKOV has tasted gold before, as head coach of the Russian youth team in Siberia in 2009.

In the bronze-medal encounter, Hungary wasted a 5-1 advantage early in the second quarter only to see seven-times champion United States of America take the lead midway through the third period. The experience of the North Americans was too much for Hungary, who went long periods without a goal. It was the first bronze for USA, who has been in the final on no less than eight occasions.
In the fifth-sixth classification, Spain, who only lost one match, the quarterfinal match-up with Russia (11-9), finished with a 10-8 victory over Italy. Roberta BIANCONI was kept scoreless, but still topped the tournament with 20 goals.

In the play-off for seventh and eighth, Australia claimed a second victory over Canada in Beijing, winning 9-8 in a match that it had to come back from 6-7 down early in the final quarter.

Match 21: 12:00, Classification 7-8, AUSTRALIA 9 CANADA 8
Quarters: 2-1, 2-2, 2-3, 3-2
Referees: Massimo SAVARESE (ITA), Kunihiro MAKIHASHI (JPN)
Extra Man: AUS: 7/10. CAN: 1/10
Pens: Nil

AUSTRALIA: Lea BARTA, Jayde APPEL (1), Hannah BUCKLING, Holly LINCOLN-SMITH, Isobel BISHOP (1), Bronwen KNOX, Rowena WEBSTER (2), Glencora RALPH, Zoe ARANCINI (2), Ashleigh SOUTHERN (1), Keesja GOFERS (1), Nicola ZAGAME (1), Kelsey WAKEFIELD. Head Coach: Greg McFADDEN.
CANADA: Michele RELTON, Krystina ALOGBO, Katrina MONTON, Emma WRIGHT (2), Monika EGGENS (2), Joelle BEKHAZI, Sophie BARON LA SALLE (1), Dominique PERRAULT (2), Carmen EGGENS (1), Christine ROBINSON, Stephanie VALIN, Marina RADU, Nicola COLTERJOHN. Head Coach: Guy BAKER.

In a rematch of the opening day when Australia won 12-8, Australia held sway again, but by the narrowest margin. The story of the match was in the extra-man statistics where Australia converted seven from 10 chances and Canada only one from 10. Australia’s defence was excellent in this sphere.

Canada opened the scoring through wonder kid Emma WRIGHT from eight metres. Australia then had the scoring prowess with Rowena WEBSTER on extra, Zoe Arancini on extra — nearly six minutes apart — finishing the quarter scoring at 2-1.

Keesja GOFERS scored her first goal of the week when, on extra, she shoveled in a rebound shot from Ashleigh SOUTHERN for 3-1. On the next attack Sophie BARON LA SALLE replied for Canada on extra from the top. Isobel BISHOP sent in a deft lob from deep right for 4-2, closely followed by Monika EGGENS at deep left for 4-3 by halftime.

WEBSTER with a lob from deep left — her 17th goal — and SOUTHERN on extra after a timeout, had Australia comfortably ahead at 6-3 by 3:47. Then the Canadian Pacific rolled into town. Dominique PERRAULT, Carmen EGGENS and PERRAULT again had the match level by the end of the period.

The game became even more interesting with WRIGHT scoring her second to take Canada into the lead for the first time at the start of the fourth period. A quick goal on exclusion saw the ball shift in the air to centre forward Jayde APPEL to score from two metres, her first of the tournament and first senior goal of her career. ARANCINI struck again on extra from her favoured deep left position. Nicola ZAGAME joined the juggernaut Aussie Stingers attack with an extra-man goal from the left side for 9-7. Canada took a timeout but the resulting shot hit the crossbar. Canada’s extra-man chance went skyward just inside the last minute. A one-on-one chance for Australia went begging when the pass to the centre forward who had just gained an exclusion was intercepted by the goalkeeper. Canada hung on to hope with a timeout ploy, and Monika EGGENS scored off a five-metre foul for 9-8. With 15 seconds left, Australia held the ball and the game was won by Australia.

AUS vs CAN - credit: Russell McKinnon


“It was a good way to finish the tournament. I think we improved during the week. We’ve still got a lot of work to do moving forward to Barcelona. We have seven new players in the team and this was all about teaching them to play international water polo.”

Jayde APPEL (AUS) — 19-year-old scored her first international goal
“I gained the kickout and Zoe (ARANCINI) popped me the ball and I scored. It was really exciting and I was very happy. When I first joined the team I was nervous because of so many Olympians but they were welcoming and we are all together now. I don’t feel like the young one.”

Emma WRIGHT (CAN) — 16-year-old in her second FINA Super Final
“I think being able to train with the senior team and grow as a player and also playing with the (Born) ’94 team internationally. We are a really strong team and all members are experienced, great players. We have a new coach and new systems, which we are trying to get used to. We are really excited about going to Barcelona. It will be a really big tournament and we will be right for that.”


Match 22: 13:20, Classification 5-6, SPAIN 10 ITALY 8
Quarters: 2-1, 3-4, 4-2, 1-1
Referees: MENG Anlong (CHN), Alexey KAPRIVIN (RUS)
Extra Man: ESP: 4/7. ITA: 6/18
Pens: ITA: 0/1

SPAIN: Laura ESTER, Marta BACH, Anna ESPAR (2), Roser TARRAGO (3), Matilda ORTIZ (2), Jennifer PAREJA (1), Lorena MIRANDA, Pilar PENA, Andrea BLAS (1), Ona MESEGUER, Maica GARCIA (1), Laura LOPEZ, Patricia HERRERA. Head Coach: Miguel OCA.
ITALY: Elena GIGLI, Francesca POMERI, Arianna GARIBOTTI, Federica RADICCHI (1), Elisa QUEIROLO (1), Rosaria AIELLO, Tania DI MARIO, Roberta BIANCONI, Giulia EMMOLO (2), Valeria PALMIERI (1), Aleksandra COTTI (2), Teresa FRASSINETTI (1), Giulia GORLERO. Head Coach: Fabio CONTI.

On day one, Group A winner Spain beat Italy 9-8. Today it was 10-8, so little had changed in five days. Italian Roberta BIANCONI, scorer of 20 goals in five matches, was kept scoreless, as was her captain Tania DI MARIO.

Spain started strongly with Anna ESPAR and Matilda ORTIZ scoring inside the first 90 seconds. Nearly four and a half minutes later, Federica RADICCHI shot from the top of the arc for a 2-1 score.

The even nature of the match continued in the second quarter as goals were traded. Roser TARRAGO dropped one in from the top for 3-1, Italy’s Giulia EMMOLO responded with her 12th of the week from deep right on extra. TARRAGO scored her 12th on extra for 4-2. Italy scored a pair with Aleksandra COTTI and Teresa FRASSINETTI, also converting extra for 4-4. Andrea BLAS converted a Spanish extra chance for 5-4 and Valeria PALMIERI backhanded a centre-forward shot for 5-5 at 1:25, the last scoring of the half.

ORTIZ grabbed her second from the top right on the first attack of the third period. Arianna GARIBOTTI had her penalty attempt blocked by Laura ESTER and all of a sudden, Spain was 8-5 ahead with TARRAGO on the drive and captain Jennifer PAREJA scoring from the top. EMMOLO gained her second and 13th for the week on extra. COTTI scored a second, also on extra to peg the score back to 8-7. Anna ESPAR shot and scored her 13th goal for 9-7 with two seconds remaining, but referee MENG said it was a baulk off a free throw. After much consultation, the score was allowed as the ball was in play at the time of the shot, Italy had a shot, but it was blocked by the defence and the quarter time score was 9-7 in Spain’s favour.

The final quarter was all defence and included one double exclusion. Italian captain Tania DI MARIO was without an ear guard. Neither side could breach the defence and Spain’s hopes rested on a timeout at 0:52. The ball was worked around, the excluded player returned and then the ball speared into Maica GARCIA on the far post to score for 10-7 at 0:28. Just as the clock was ticking to the last second, Elisa QUEIROLO let rip from the top for 10-8 as the buzzer sounded. Spain had claimed fifth place.

ESP vs ITA - credit: Russell McKinnon


Miguel OCA  (ESP) — Head Coach
“I was very satisfied the way we played. We played at a good level all week. We only lost one game (quarterfinal). We have to continue the same way, working hard until Barcelona. It was a good tournament. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. Anybody can win.”

Roser TARRAGO (ESP) — Three goals
“We played a good tournament and now we are going to the World Championships. Getting fifth place pushes us to work even harder. We have to keep work on our defence. This is the most important thing. The good thing is that we are playing together again after a long time (2012 Olympic Games).”

Match 23: 14:40, Classification 3-4, HUNGARY 9 UNITED STATES OF AMERICA 10
Quarters: 4-1, 1-2, 1-5, 3-2
Referees: Maro SAVINOVIC (CRO), Edmundo RODRIGUES (BRA)
Extra Man: HUN: 4/9. USA: 3/7
Pens: Nil

HUNGARY: Orsolya KASO, Anna ILLES, Dora ANTAL (2), Ibolya MISKOLCZI (3), Gabriella SZUCS (2), Orsolya TAKACS, Brigitta HORVATH, Rita KESZTHELYI (2), Ildiko TOTH, Barbara BUJKA, Krisztina GARDA, Kata MENCZINGER, Edina GANGL. Head Coach: Andras MERESZ.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Elizabeth ARMSTRONG, Lauren SILVER (2), Melissa SEIDEMANN, Danielle WARDE, Caroline CLARK, Margaret STEFFENS (2), Courtney MATHEWSON (1), Kiley NEUSHAL (1), Jillian KRAUS, Kelly RULON (1), Annika DRIES (2), Kameryn CRAIG (2), Tumuaialii ANAE. Head Coach: Adam KRIKORIAN.

USA had the luxury of a 10-7 victory over Hungary on day three. That counted for nothing when a bronze medal was up for grabs. With seven crowns and one silver, this was the first bronze medal for USA at World League. Hungary’s sole medal was silver at the inaugural event in Long Beach, USA, in 2004. Hungary raced to a 5-12 lead, but could not contain the aggressive USA who took the lead at 7-6 midway through the third quarter and went on to victory.

Although USA opened the scoring, but Hungary had the run of the game for the rest of the half. Annika DRIES scored at centre forward. International newcomer Ibolya MISKOLCZI scored the first of her three goals on extra and then Gabriella SZUCS from deep right; Rita KESZTHELYI near the top and MISKOLCZI again, sending the ball past the ear of the goalkeeper at 0:27, had the game at 4-1 in Hungary’s favour.

MISKOLCZI scored her third at 6:26 in the second quarter, just squeezing it into the bottom right corner for 5-1. This lethargy by the USA, so typical this week in the early stages of games, led to a spurt that had the score at 5-3 by halftime and a two-goal lead by the final break. The first of the run came from Kylie NEUSHAL on extra, then Kelly RULON into the top right from outside for 5-3.

DRIES smashed in a two-metre goal at 7:40 in the third. SZUCS replied form the top with a rifle shot. Margaret STEFFENS, the MVP at the London Olympic Games, slapped in a rebound, Kameryn CRAIG netted from centre forward, Courtney MATHEWSON found the net from the left side of the pool and then Lauren SILVER threaded the top left at 2:00 for a handsome 8-6 advantage. Hungary called a timeout at 1:11. However, there was no goal for the rest of the period.

STEFFENS threw her second goal at 4:47 in the fourth, after the exclusion period and after a timeout. Dora ANTAL gave hope to Hungary with consecutive goals from deep left, the first on extra and the second just after the player had returned. SILVER damped that enthusiasm with a smart cross-cage shot into the bottom left for 10-8. Hungary drove and KESZTHELYI arrived at the two-metre line early and then took a pass from near halfway to score off the far post for 10-9 at 1:49. Hungary took a timeout at 0:22, however, lost the ball through an offensive and USA held on for victory.

USA vs HUN - credit: Russell McKinnon


Adam KRIKORIAN (USA) — Head Coach
“It was a good, tough game to play, coming off a disappointing loss. Also there are no days off to recuperate (like World Championships). To be down 5-1 is not good but I was proud of the group to come back.” On the trends of slow starts: “We’ve got to get away from that bad trend. There are a lot of holes and weaknesses. We’ll spend time getting better than what we are now.”

Match 24: 16:00, Classification 1-2, RUSSIA 7 CHINA 8
Quarters: 1-3, 2-1, 2-3, 2-1
Referees: Amber DRURY-PINTO (USA), Jaume TEIXIDO (ESP)
Extra Man: RUS: 3/3. CHN: 1/6
Pens: RUS: 2/2. CHN: 3/3

RUSSIA: Anna USTYUKHINA, Diana ANTONOVA, Ekaterina PROKOFYEVA, Elvina KARIMOVA (1), Alexandra ANTONOVA (1), Olga BELOVA (2), Ekaterina LISUNOVA (2), Anna GRINEVA, Anna TIMOFEEVA, Olga BELIAEVA (1), Evgeniya IVANOVA, Ksenia KRIMER, Anna KARNAUKH. Head Coach: Mikhail NAKORYAKOV.
CHINA: YANG Jun, TENG Fei (2), LIU Ping, SUN Yujun, HE Jin, SUN Yating (1), SONG Donglun (1), ZHU Yajing, MEI Xiaohan (3), MA Huanhuan (2), ZHANG Cong, ZHANG Lei (1), WANG Ying. Head Coach: Alexander KLEYMENOV.

MA Huanhuan might have been the hero with three goals, but it was the entire Chinese team, which deserves recognition of a world crown. China dominated as Russia came back time and again and never gave up in a thrilling grand final.

China had a 13-10 advantage over Russia when they clashed on day three. However, the gold-medal final was something else.

It was China’s first gold medal in senior women’s competition and a first World League medal. It goes with 2011 FINA World Championships silver and 2010 FINA World Cup bronze. The set is complete.

Russia was last on the podium in Tenerife 2008 where it won gold, previously winning silver and bronze. It was a game to remember.

It was China who started the scoring surge before a crowd of several thousand people. MA Huanhuan, normally the outside shooter, found herself in Forbidden City territory at centre forward, scoring the opening goal in the first half minute. ZHANG Lei capped a beautiful counter attack when captain SUN Yujun crossed the ball over the two-metre line from right to left for 2-0. Ekaterina LISUNOVA converted a penalty by wrong-siding YANG Jun. MA swam up and converted a penalty for China for 3-1 at 2:42, the only scoring of the quarter.

LISUNOVA netted her second penalty goal and 16th goal for the tournament, a minute before China gained the fourth penalty attempt. TENG Fei made sure of the shot and China was 4-2 up. Olga BELOVA struck home a high shot from the near post on extra man for 4-2 at 1:01 — the halftime score.

Olga BELIAEVA opened the third period on counter to level the game. However, TENG Fei tipped in a short pass on the right post for 5-4; SONG Donglun converted the fifth penalty of the match, and SUN Yating converted extra-man attack for 7-4, a morale-boosting lead. Elvina KARIMOVA scored from a goalmouth scuffle on extra man for 7-5 at 2:55. China then pressured Russia’s goal, hitting the crossbar three times. Try as it might, it couldn’t improve the score before the tournament’s final quarter-time break.

Aleksandra ANTONOVA dragged the game back to one on extra after a timeout and the stadium fell silent. Two minutes later, the crowd erupted as MA lobbed from top left for 8-6 at 4:39. Just inside the four-minute mark — and history awaiting — China called a timeout. The resulting shot was tipped over the line. The ball was lost on the next attack. LISUNOVA was shut down on counter by YANG and was ejected for holding. China could not convert and on the subsequent counter, BELOVA waved and shot for goal at 2:33 and 8-7. China lost the ball at the end of the next possession. Russia was denied a goal on turnover and China’s shot was ineffective. BELOVA had another counter and slammed the ball into the advancing YANG. China had no shot at the other end. Russian captain Ekaterina IVANOVA lobbed and hit the crossbar at 0:33. China gathered the ball and slowly made its way up the field under fierce, tight pressure. Coach KLEYMENOV was urging his team to move forward to avoid the turnover. The final buzzer sounded and Russian head coach Mikhail NAKORYAKOV was calling for a timeout as China started the historic celebrations.

China's team, tasting their first victory at the World League - credit: Russell McKinnon


Alexander KLEYMENOV (RUS) — China Head Coach
“There were many problems in there today. The Russian women were very strong and defended well and they counter-attacked. There are many jobs for Sasha (KLEYMENOV) as we prepare for Barcelona.”