Auckland, December 18.— Russia beat Spain 9-7 in the gold-medal final of the FINA World Women’s Youth Water Polo Championships at the Sir Owen Glenn National Aquatic Centre in Auckland.

Picture: petertroakeproductions

Russia started strongly and Italy was equal to the task levelling the match at halftime. From then on Russia led and Italy had to chase.

In the bronze-medal clash, Italy outgunned Netherlands 14-13 in sudden-death penalty shootout after the match was tied at 7-7. Both teams missed a shot in the regulation round and both scored their first two attempts in sudden death before Netherlands had its shot blocked and Italy converted.

In the play-off for fifth, outgoing world champion United States of America held out Greece — fourth in Madrid two years ago — 11-10.

China beat Hungary 16-14 in a penalty shootout for seventh place after the teams were tied at 12-12 by fulltime.

The tournament, like the youth men's event some months ago, was played with just 11 of the 13-player rosters, with 25 seconds possession time and 15 seconds exclusion periods. This makes for a much faster style of game with more shots and plenty of goals. However, following this tournament, FINA was not expected to continue with experimental rules.

Live streaming of all matches is via:

Picture: Russell McKinnon

Final placings:

1. Russia

2. Spain

3. Italy

4. Netherlands

5. United States of America

6. Greece

7. China

8. Hungary


10.New Zealand




14.South Africa



Most Valuable Player: Alena Serzhantova (RUS) pictured

Picture: Russell McKinnon

Highest Goal-Scorer: Alejandra Aznar (ESP) 

Tournament Team:


Antonia Young (NZL)

Field Players:

Maria Bersneva (RUS)

Aria Fischer (USA)

Alena Serzhantova (RUS)

Nicoleta Eleftheriadou (GRE)

Alejandra Aznar (ESP)

Coach: Sergey Markoch (RUS)

Tournament Team with FINA Technical Water Polo Committee member
Mohie Farid (left) and New Zealand Water Polo Tournament Director and
former Netherlands 
great Eelco Uri. Missing: Aria Fischer.

Leading goal-scorers:

26. Alejandra Aznar (ESP)

25. Aria Fischer (USA)

22. Orsolya Hertzka (HUN)

21. Paige Hauschild (USA)

20. Maria Bersneva (RUS) 


Match reports:

Match 45, 12.00am, CHINA 16 HUNGARY 14 in penalty shootout (FT: 12-12. Pens: 4-2)

Classification 7th & 8th

Quarters: 3-3, 1-3, 6-3, 2-3

Referees: Ursula Wengenroth (SUI), Daniel Daners (URU).

Extra Man: CHN: 2/4. HUN: 2/7.

Penalties: CHN: 1/1. HUN: 1/1.


CHINA: Jingying Wu, Yanan Bi (2+1), Sanfeng Nong (3+1), Dunhan Xiong, Shiyun Wang, Wen Su (2), Rui Xu (2), Qingwei Wang (+1), Yujia Bai, Jiawen Li (3+1), Yuting Xie. Head Coach: Dali Gong.

HUNGARY: Gina Lekrinski, Reka Miklos (1), Vanda Valyi (3+1), Orsolja Hertska (1), Henriett Adam, Hlengiwe Mchunu (2), Fanni Muzsnay (2+1), Csenge Toth (1), Eszter Kiss, Anna Mucsi (2), Alda Magyari, Laura Koncz. Head Coach: Gabor Godova.


China emerged victor after being two goals down at halftime. For Hungary, it was a second penalty–shootout loss, going down to Italy in the quarterfinals, losing that time 4-5 from the 5m line. Hungary had to come back from 11-9 and 12-10 to force the shootout, scoring the last two goals inside the final two minutes. Hungary did not look the team it could have been, while China played probably its best match of the week. Fatigue played its part and the fact that goal attempts in the second half by Hungary were off target proved crucial. One of the best goals of the match was from Hungarian centre forward Reka Miklos to level the match at four, midway through the second quarter. She received the ball behind her, swiveled, moved left and backhanded with her right arm into goal. After that goal there was five minutes with no addition to the scoreboard. The frenzy of scoring in the third favoured China and that made Hungary’s resurgence all that more meritorious. Hungary claimed the bronze in Madrid two years ago and China was eighth.


Picture: Russell McKinnon



Classification 5th & 6th

Referees: Henk Smit (NED), Ivanka Rakovic-Krstonosic (SRB).

Referee Henk Smit (NED), officiating his last international before retiring.
He has refereed 280 internationals in 15 years as a FINA referee. Below: FINA
presentation to Henk by FINA TWPC Chairman Gianni Lonzi and FINA Bureau
Liaison Dimitris Diathesopoulos.


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

Extra Man: USA: 2/7. GRE: 3/8.

Penalties: GRE: 1/1.


UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Heidi Ritner, Alexis Liebowitz, Jewel Roemer, Abrielle Hill, Paige Hauschild (7), Bayley Weber, Madeline Johnston, Sarah Klass (1), Aria Fischer (2), Ryann Neushul (1), Thea Walsh. Head Coach: Marcelo Leonardi.

GREECE: Ioanna Stamatopoulou, Elisavet Protopapas (2), Eleni Elliniadi, Nikoleta Eleftheriadou (2), Vasiliki Plevritou (1), Pinelopi Kollia, Dimitra Papanastasiou, Maria Patra (3), Ifigeneia Mavrota (1), Maria Myriokefalitaki (1), Marina Kotsioni. Head Coach: Stefanos Leandros.


Outgoing world champion United States of America outlasted world No 4 Greece in the play-off for fifth. The result was always in doubt and a power effort from USA in the final quarter lifted it to victory over Greece, who appeared to die with all effort spent. Greece shot out to a 4-2 lead and was 5-3 ahead with a penalty strike soon after the restart. USA levelled at 5-5, led at 6-5 before Greece went 7-6 up by halftime. USA levelled three times in the vital third quarter before rupturing the game apart with two goals at the top of the fourth by Olympic champion Aria Fischer from deep left with a shot resembling a jackhammer. It proved the winning of the match as Greece managed one from Maria Patra at 3:01. Despite some close chances, neither side could breach the defence. The chief destruction agent for USA was the high-performing Paige Hauschild, whose seven goals lifted her to 21 for the tournament.

The match was the last for Dutch official Henk Smit, retiring after an amazing 280-match career spanning 15 years. As well as a long FINA career, attending numerous tournaments in Europe and beyond, Smit officiated hundreds more matches at national level.

 Picture: Russell McKinnon


Match 47, 2.40pm, NETHERLANDS 13 ITALY 14 in sudden-death penalty shootout (FT: 7-7. Pens: 6-7)

Classification 3rd & 4th

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

Referees: Svetlana Dreval (RUS), Michael Brooks (NZL)

Extra Man: NED: 5/6. ITA: 2/5.

Penalties: ITA: 0/1.


NETHERLANDS: Sarah Buis, Rozanne Voorvelt, Brigitte Sleeking (+2), Fluerien Bosveld (1), Maartje Keuning (1+1), Anouk Bergsma (1), Brigit Mulder (1+2), Saranne Dukel (1), Kitty-Lynn Joustra (1), Lieke Rogge (1+1), Gezina Scholte. Head Coach: Gerrit-Jan Schothans.

ITALY: Caterina Banchelli, Agnese Cocchiere (3), Claudia Presta, Isabella Riccioli, Chiara Foresta (1+1), Giulia Millo (+1), Domitilla Picozzi (+2), Elisa Quattrini, Giulia Cuzzupe (1+2), Elena Altamura (2+1), Sara Ingannamorte. Head Coach: Paolo Cizza.


What a thrilling and heart-stopping encounter this turned out to be. Bronze was on the line and neither side wanted to go home empty. So close it needed a penalty shootout. Four shots each crossed the line in the regulation shoot and then two each in sudden death before Lieke Rogge had her shot blocked by Italian goalkeeper Caterina Banchelli. It was a gutsy effort by both countries. Netherlands held sway at the first quarter and then Italy erupted like Mt Vesuvius with a spectacular 4-2 second quarter. The equaliser at 3-3 came at 4:43 and two goals in the final minute made it a delicious advantage for the Italians, like tomato sauce on pasta. Netherlands responded through Brigit Mulder and what a relief that was for the Orange women — the first strike for nearly 11 minutes of play. Italy had its penalty attempt blocked and 26 seconds from the final break, the Dutch levelled at 5-5 through Kitty-Lynn Joustra. Netherlands took the lead in the fourth period, Italy came from 5-6 to 7-6 with a bold shot from Saranne Dukel with just 15 seconds to go. It was Netherlands’ match, or so it seemed. Italy, so mature, so fast, so determined, sent the ball into a heavily defended Agnese Cocchiere at centre forward. No hope of an ejection. She just backhanded it into goal with three seconds spare and sent the match to the inevitable shootout, which had even more sensational results.


Picture: Russell McKinnon


Match 48, 4.00pm, RUSSIA 9 SPAIN 7

Classification 1st & 2nd

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

Referees: Nicola Johnson (AUS), Gabriella Varkonyi (HUN).

Extra Man: RUS:  3/6. ESP: 1/8.

Penalties: RUS: 0/1. ESP: 0/1.


RUSSIA: Evgenia Golovina, Daria Gerzanic (1), Elizavita Zaplatina (1), Maria Bersneva (1), Bella Khamzaeva (2), Polina Popova, Alena Serzhantova (4), Polina Kempf, Veronika Vakhitova, Tatiana Tolkunova, Svetlana Stephakhina. Head Coach: Sergey Markoch.

SPAIN: Sandra Domene, Paula Crespi, Paula Leiton, Mireia Guiral, Alejandra Aznar (3), Blanca Goset, Elia Montoya, Carmen Barringo (1), Alba Bonamusa (3), Sofia Diaz, Paula Rutgers. Head Coach: Jordi Valls.


This was a match of attrition. Which team could outthink, outlast and basically, outshoot the other. But, in reality, it was all about defence and nullifying the teams’ strengths. The strong Paula Leiton in centre forward for Spain, who must have been the youngest female water polo Olympian, had to use her ample skills to as best effect as she could. She has struggled all week after the split lip from the first day, gained against Russia when the margin was a stratospheric 18-6. Knock 10 goals off and it was a demanding and commanding encounter. Russia, as expected, as it contained the two best players in Auckland — Maria Bersneva and the tournament’s Most Valuable Player, Alena Serzhantova — went 3-1 up at the quarter. A repeat was in order. However, Spain, no stranger to coming back in big matches at any level, won the second 3-1. Two quick goals by Russia in the early part of the third quarter proved a tough mental barrier for Spain, Alejandra Aznar, who finished as the tournament’s top scorer, broke through on counter to narrow the margin to one. Alas, Russia penetrated the defence 17 seconds later for the 7-5 lead heading into the fourth stanza. It went 8-5 and 8-6 making for a fantastic finale of such a fine event in this magnificent new complex. Heading into the final four minutes, Spain worked hard, Russia stole balls and then Spain pressured, pressed and harried Russia. Long shots were the regular feature in Auckland as teams struggled with the swim and the lesser possession time. Teams were stranded and had to lob in the mostly vain hope of some miracle. Four became three minutes and Spain gained an extra-man attack, scoring through Alba Bonamusa for 8-7 at 2:22. Russia gained an extra-man play and the strident Sergey Markoch called a one-minute break, which produced the caviar moment in giving it to Serzhantova. She gained the ball twice and rifled it into the bottom left for 9-7 at 1:53. Spain nearly grabbed one back from a swift backhand and even gained an extra opportunity, but the lob was swatted away by Evgenia Golovina, one of the revelations in Auckland, and the gold was winging to Russia. Anyone for vodka?



 Picture: Russell McKinnon