Day two of the FINA Women’s Water Polo World League Super Final at the Kunshan Sports Centre is over and the scores are here!
Quarters: 0-2, 2-1, 3-2, 1-2
The Netherlands gained the second win, leading Spain 3-0, trailing 5-6 in the final period and coming home a one-goal winner. It is not often you see Spain at a loss for words, let alone goals.
Come quarter time none had made the scoresheet and it was not until 2:10 in the second period that it finally beat Dutch goalkeeper Laura Aarts, thanks to Anna Espar. By then, Netherlands had three in the bag with Maud Megens rising high to score twice. Spain scored again before the long break with Maica Garcia converting extra-man attack from the deep left. This was such a contrast from the previous match where the goals flowed. It was also a huge contrast from Monday’s encounter with China when Spain won 13-6. To go nearly 14 minutes without a goal is almost unthinkable at this level.
The first-quarter jitters had gone and Spain was back on track. In fact, Spain leveled through Judith Forca on the counter with a lob down the right-side drive. A full press by the Dutch on the next Spanish attack forced a turnover at center, another frustration for head coach Miguel Oca. This increased when Catharina van der Sloot was on the counter down the left and scored cross-cage for 5-4 at 0:43.
Anna Gual had her shot blocked by Aarts, but the ball toppled back into the goal for 5-5 at 0:16, setting up an exciting final quarter. In started with Helena Lloret giving Spain its first led at 6-5 before the Netherlands struck twice in two minutes through captain Dagmar Genee from deep left and Kitty-Lynn Joustra on extra, turning the ball in from the left post on extra at 1:54.
Spain’s first attack was blocked and its second earned an ejection and a timeout at 0:46. The shot was tipped over by Aarts. She then blocked a centre-forward shot from Paul Leiton and Netherlands won the match, in no small part by its fantastic goalkeeper.
Quarters: 2-3, 2-2, 1-1, 1-2
China played a well-balanced game and worked solidly all over the pool. Australia struggled to keep up and, while it had a multitude of chances, either missed or failed to take the better-percentage shot. China held control at virtually all stages.
The Aussie Stingers took the early advantage, going 2-1 ahead by 3:20. That all changed as Jiawen Lu and Guannan Niu gave China a 3-2 margin with the latter scoring 10 seconds from time from the deep left. It got worse for Australia as China slammed in the first two goals of the second quarter and head coach Athanasios Kechagias gained a yellow card.
Veteran Bronwen Knox pulled one back for the team she captained to the Rio Olympics, and Elle Armit made it a one-goal game at 2:23. Niu took it out to 6-4 three minutes into the third quarter and Amy Ridge gave Australia some relief with her effort. Neither side could breach a defense in the last four minutes.
China was pressing hard and forcing errors, much to the delight of a quiet Spaniard Juan Jane on the Chinese bench, who has been assisting the team he once coached. Australia’s Morgan Baxter converted a penalty early in the fourth only to have that drawn score erased a minute later when Jing Zhang received a pass after a rebound to have the ball dribbled off Gabriella Palm, who checked into the match at halftime.
Xiao Chen delighted the large crowd with a centre-forward goal after a frenetic period, to go 8-6 ahead at 1:53. Australia twice had shots that failed to find the net and China swam away with the match, most deservedly. Unlike the previous match where both teams scored five extra-man goals, there was no joy for either team here with Australia having five chances and China eight, such was the goalkeeping and solid defense.
Quarters: 6-3, 4-2, 9-4, 3-1
Russia had too much experience and accurate firepower for the feisty Japanese and managed to fend off a team bent on speed, fast passing, and agility. However, strength, greater knowledge and the ability to sit up and smash in goals proved the defining difference, especially in the third quarter.
Russia gained space and made those moments count. Japan also found space, especially in front of goal, with constant driving and zippy passing. The shots might not have been as hard as Russia’s, but they were accurate at times and beat the defense.
The pace of the much was such that nine goals came in the opening quarter and five in the second, although the pace never dropped. Japan struck back with two quick goals when 3-1 behind in the opener, before allowing Russia to sneak out to three ahead.
This became 8-3 early in the second and then 8-5 as Japan reduced the margin to three. Russia then held sway with the likes of Evgenia Ivanova slipping into the center with a defender in tow and quietly lobbing Minami Shioya for her fourth goal.
The match see-sawed until 14-9 before Russia swam rampant to close the period at 19-9 with three of the last five to Olga Gorbunova, including the last on the counter with less than a second on the clock. The match finally tightened in the last with Japan missing a penalty attempt, but halting the Russian juggernaut on numerous occasions. Japan scored last through Yumi Arima at 0:23, hitting double figures — a fine achievement against a team like Russia. While Russia had the better finishing, the teams were even when it came to skills, desire and move executions.
Quarters: 3-1, 2-2, 5-0, 2-2
Billed as a rematch of last year’s final in nearby Shanghai, much was expected and plenty was delivered. These teams know each other very well and used that information. However, USA has the track record of winning and winning well. Locked at 1-1 six minutes into the first quarter, USA snapped in two late goals, including Jamie Neushul’s last-second attempt.
Rachel Fattal scored USA’s first two goals from the right-hand-catch position. Jamie Neushul netted her second at the top of the second quarter and captain Maggie Steffens made it 5-1 on extra from the top at 4:18. Canada controlled the next four minutes with Joelle Bekhazi and Shae Fournier both converting extra-man opportunities to narrow the margin to two by halftime.
Canada’s joy changed in the third as USA’s Stephanie Haralabidis, Fattal and Mel Seidemann with a rocket from the top, stretching the score to 8-3. Alys Williams pushed it to 9-3, accepting a cross-pass on two meters after the extra-man period at 1:07 and Paige Hauschild drilled the ball home on the counter with less than six seconds remaining, a huge advantage.
The final period was more like the North American cross-border clashes of old, both teams going nose to nose with more joy coming from Canada. Monika Eggens and Fournier bracketed Brigitta Games’ goal — all three on extra — to move the match to 11-5 by 4:32. The USA went to a timeout two minutes later, gained an exclusion foul and used the whole 30-second period before Hauschild scored from the top. Canada had no such joy with its timeout.
Both teams pressed hard until the end, but it was USA’s day. Canada can enjoy the two equalized periods. Both teams were deadly on extra-man attack with USA’s five-from-eight statistics most telling, let alone world class.