Two blowouts and a nail-biter highlighted Day 3 of round-robin play at the FINA Women’s Intercontinental tournament in Lewisville, Texas.

The opening match between China and Canada was the nail-biter.  After tying 3-3 at the end of the first quarter, Canada maintained a comfortable lead for the next two periods, but found itself tied 11-11 with 5:47 to play, deadlocked again at 12-12, and finally 13-13 with 2:24 left on the clock. Joelle Bekhazi scored the go-ahead goal (her fourth of the night) to help Canada prevail, 15-14.

Next, the US quickly demolished Japan’s hope of claiming its first victory by ratcheting up a 9-1 lead in the first quarter. The onslaught ended,19-2, and the US remained undefeated – but only after goalie Sami Hill scored the penultimate point with a fling that went the full length of the pool and landed softly in Japan’s net.

Finally, after a hesitant start, Australia beat Brazil 15-3, to keep its perfect winning record.

The top four teams when the tournament ends on Sunday (and China) will qualify for the FINA World League Super Final, June 7-12, in Shanghai, China.  

GAME 1: 16:40 CHINA 14 CANADA 15
Quarters: 3-3, 2-5, 3-2, 6-5

Extra Man: CHN: 5/13. CAN 6/9.
Pens: Nil.

CHINA: Yang Jun, Lu Yiwen (1), Mei Xiaohan, Xiong Dunhan, Niu Guannan (5), Sun Yating (2), Song Donglun (4), Zhang Cong (2), Zhao Zihan, Zhang Wei Wei, Wang Xinyan, Zhang Jing, Peng Lin. Head Coach: Ricardo Azevedo.
CANADA: Jessica Gaudreault, Krystina Alogbo, Katrina Monton, Emma Wright (4), Monika Eggens (3), Kelly McKee, Joelle Bekhazi (4), Shae Fournier (1), Carmen Eggens, Christine Robinson (2), Axelle Crevier, Dominique Perreault (1), Nicola Colterjohn. Head Coach: David Paradelo.

Canada beat China, 15-14, after an intense fourth quarter. Photo by Thunder Polo

China almost claimed its first victory of the week, against Canada.

The game was tied 3-3 at the end of the first quarter. In the second, Canada went on a 5-goal scoring spree highlighted by 19-year-old leftie Emma Wright’s third goal of the night. China also earned two goals in that period but by halftime, China also had 12 turnovers (compared to Canada’s 5), squandered five chances to score on powerplays, and trailed 8-5.

The key moment came in the fourth quarter when Niu Guannan blasted a shot past Canada’s goalie Nicola Colterjohn to tie the game at 11-all with 5:47 left. Shae Fournier responded with a cross-cage winner on a power play for Canada. Forty seconds later, also on a powerplay, China’s Zhang Cong tied it again,12-12. Seventeen seconds after that, Joelle Bekhazi made it 13-12 for Canada. Twenty-five seconds more and Guannan would score her fifth goal of the game to tie it 13-each. That is, until Bekhazi gave Canada a 14-13 edge with her fourth goal of the night. Finally, with 28 seconds left on the clock, Wright scored again (on a power play) to put Canada up 15-13.  China’s captain Sun Yating had the last word, though, a sweet backhand into the corner of the net with 5 seconds remaining. Final 15-14 Canada.

Canada is now 2-1 in the tournament and will play the US on Friday while China (0-3) takes on Brazil.
China Head Coach Ricardo Azevedo:
“We started well. The first two periods, I played a lot of the younger ones again. Then I was a little concerned about the physicality of the game, so I figured I’d better get the young ones out and put the strong ones back in because they’d do a lot better. And they did. They came back from a 4-goal deficit and tied it. We had a couple of opportunities to win the game and did not, but I’m not worried. Altogether, it was good. With the exception of mistakes from the goalie, I think we did a fine job.”

Canada’s center and team captain Krystina Alogbo:
“The key to the victory was just staying disciplined, playing our game, sticking to basics, and doing what was asked of us from the beginning to the end. [In the last minutes we were told] just stick to what’s been working, not to rush anything, keep attacking, keep pushing, keep doing our game.”

GAME 2: 18:00, JAPAN 2, USA 19
Quarters: 1-9, 0-2, 1-4, 0-4

Extra Man: JPN: 0/4. USA 4/8.
Pens: Nil.

JAPAN: Rikako Miura, Chiaki Sakanoue, Akari Inaba, Shino Magariyama, Yuri Kazama, Ayaka Takahashi (2), Yumi Nakano, Mitsuki Hashiguchi, Kana Hosoya, Mori Tsubasai, Marina Tokumoko, Kotori Suzuki, Miyuu Aoki. Head Coach: Hideo Kato.
UNITED STATES: Sami Hill (1), Maddie Musselman (1), Melissa Seidemann, Rachel Fattal (1), KK Clark (1), Maggie Steffens (4), Courtney Mathewson, Kiley Neushul (3), Aria Fischer (3), Kaleigh Gilchrist (1), Makenzie Fischer (3), Kami Craig (1), Ashleigh Johnson. Head Coach: Adam Krikorian.

Kiley Neushul added 3 goals for the US in a 19-2 win over China on Day 3. Photo by Thunder Polo

Entering Thursday’s match, the US was 2-0 and Japan was 0-2.

In the first quarter, Japan was totally outmatched and outpaced and allowed the US to score easily which translated to a 9-1 deficit after eight minutes. In the second quarter, the US scored twice more to extend its lead to 11-1 at halftime.

In the second half, the US played effective team defense, only allowing Japan to take one shot.

Offensive highlights in the third period included a cool sister-to-sister goal by 18-year-old Makenzie Fischer off a pass from her younger sibling Aria. Next, Japan scored its second of two goals for the night (both by Ayaka Takahashi). In the fourth quarter, US goalie Sami Hill even added a point when she tossed the ball down the length of the pool and over the head of Japan’s substitute goalie Miyuu Aoki with 2:52 left in the game to give the US an 18-2 lead.  Kiley Neushul added one more goal with 1:32 remaining to seal a 19-2 US victory and remain undefeated.

The US will face Canada on Friday; Japan will meet Australia.

Japan Head Coach Hideo Kato:
“After first period, I told them to play more defense. In the first period, we focused only on offense, so if we focus on defense, we have a chance.”
United States Head Coach Adam Krikorian:
After buliding a 9-1 lead in the first quarter: Japan’s defense was better, but I also think we relaxed. We didn’t put in the effort necessary to be as successful as we were in the first quarter. It’s that simple. It doesn’t make me happy. I don’t think how we played in the last three quarters offensively met my expectations. What’s most important for us is how we played defensively. Besides a couple of mistakes that led to goals, we did a nice job defensively.

On the last time he saw goalie Sami Hill score: “I think that’s her first international goal.  I saw her score a couple in college [at UCLA], also in the CIF high school championship game. The goalie was coming out in the first quarter. I think she knew it and she wanted to go. She was hesitant. I just said,’ Go ahead, go ahead.’ I think once the coach gives you the green light, you have some confidence. Sami’s got a great arm. So does Ashleigh [Johnson, the other US goalie]. Goalies need to be aware.”

Quarters: 1-0, 4-2, 6-1, 4-0

Extra Man: AUS 4/7. BRA 1/6.
Pens: Nil.

AUSTRALIA: Lea Yanitsas, Gemma Beadsworth (1), Hannah Buckling (1), Holly Lincoln-Smith (1), Keesja Gofers (1), Bronte Halligan, Rowena Webster (2), Glencora McGhie (2), Zoe Arancini (1), Ashleigh Southern (2), Isobel Bishop (3), Nicola Zagame (1), Kelsey Wakefield. Head Coach: Greg McFadden.
BRAZIL: Tess Oliveira, Diana Abla (1), Marina Zablith (1), Marina Canetti, Camila Pedrosa, Isabella Chiappini (1), Amanda Oliveira, Luiza Carvalho, Melani Dias, Viviane Bahia, Marina Duarte, Gabriela Mantellato, Victoria Chamorro. Head Coach: Pat Oaten.

Australia remained undefeated after beating Brazil, 15-3, on Day 3. Photo by Thunder Polo

For a team that hadn’t lost a game this week, Australia played surprisingly tentatively in the first quarter against Brazil and only led, 1-0, after eight minutes. In the second quarter, it outshot Brazil (12 to 6), and outscored Brazil (4 to 2) to build a 5-2 lead at halftime.

In the second half, Brazil played well in spurts, then turned error-prone (for example, making 9 of its 16 turnovers). And Australia simply capitalized on those lapses (adding 10 goals) for a 15-3 victory.

Australia Head Coach Greg McFadden:
“I was disappointed with the first half because we were playing the body and not the ball, and we got into their style of game. I was really happy with the second half. We attacked the ball a lot more, and we got good opportunities for counterattack.

“We have Japan tomorrow. They’re a difficult team because they play a different style of water polo. They’re smaller and very mobile. We’ve got to be on our game so we’ve got to stop them from playing their driving game.”

Brazil Head Coach Pat Oaten:
“We played two different games. The first two quarters, I was satisfied. But we’ve got to learn to put a complete game together. It seems to be a problem for our team right now. I think experience has a lot to do with it – just experience playing the top teams in the world. They adapt a lot quicker, and we have trouble adapting.”