Now that the new year has arrived, it might be a good idea to get to know some new (or not so new) young female players who could have a significant impact on the year to come.
We could have chosen from among dozens of talented players around the world, but there are too many for a single list.
But now it’s 2023, and we’ve picked out 23 promising young players under the age of 21 who might just make 2023 their year. Some are already well-known, while others are possibly less so.
Club: Sabadell/ Position: Driver/ Age: 18
A precocious 18-year-old who has already become a superstar for the Spanish national team. We all remember her breathtaking performance at the Tokyo Olympics, but Elena Ruiz is just getting started. She finally secured her move to Sabadell over the summer, so 2023 could be her year to collect some big honours.
Club: Olympiacos/ Position: Defender/ Age: 18
For the Greek teenager, last year was a whirlwind, but it was also an important stepping stone for Siouti, featuring as a regular on the quadruple winning Olympiacos side and was as influential with her club as she was with her national team. She collected three major medals over the summer with the junior and senior Greece teams, and could yet add to her trophy cabinet in 2023.
Club: Sabadell/ Position: Wing/ Age: 19
The fact that Nona Perez, who is only 19, is regularly starting for both her club and her country, often ahead of more experienced players, speaks volumes about the confidence her coaches have in her. An incredibly hard-worker, Perez has risen to the top of the game, and is fast establishing herself as a top-level player.
Club: Stanford/ Position: Attacker/ Age: 18
For a player who just turned eighteen, Jenna Flynn possesses extraordinary talent. Flynn, younger sister of Nina Flynn, is an incredible all-arounder who excels equally well in attack and defence. But it is Flynn’s unwavering self-assurance that truly sets her apart from the competition. The U18 World Championships in Belgrade, where she led the tournament in goals scored, was her crowning achievement of last year. Flynn has already made several appearances for the USA women’s national team, and it looks like Adam Krikorian will continue to involve her in his plans this year.
Club: Olympiacos/ Position: Wing/ Age: 18
Like her close friend and fellow Greek player Christina Siouti, Stefania Santa is one of Greece’s top talents. Olympiacos recognised this in the offseason, when they snatched her away from Vouliagmeni, and have used her in every game so far this season. Soon approaching nineteen, Santa has already capped-off her full-international debut with a silver medal in Split, and looks set to play a big role for club and country into the next year.
Club: SIS Roma/ Position: Driver/ Age: 19
Sofia Giustini is one of the most promising young players in the Setterosa, and her goal-scoring prowess is only increasing. At nineteen, Roma’s Giustini is already racking up some decent numbers, finishing as the seventh top goal-scorer at the World Championships in Budapest, and the joint-third highest scorer at the European Championships in Split.
Club: UVSE/ Position: Attacker/ Age: 16
As a result of her stellar performance this summer with the junior Hungarian teams—in which she won three medals across three tournaments—Hajdu was promoted to the senior national team for the World League Super Finals in Tenerife, and she made the most of her opportunity. The sixteen-year-old is by far the youngest player on this list, but she has been gaining experience and confidence with her club, UVSE, and is in with a decent chance of appearing at one of the major competitions in 2023.
Club: Ekipe Orizzonte/ Position: Driver/ Age: 19
Dafne Bettini of Ekipe Orizzonte is undeniably a very promising young player; despite missing a few tournaments last year, she will be hoping that 2023 is the year she finally breaks through on the international scene. Into her last year as a teenager, she showed a lot of promise for the Setterosa on their way to clinching the bronze medal at the European Championships in Split. At this point in the season, she is Ekipe Orizzonte’s second leading goal scorer.
Club: SOCAL/ Position: Driver/ Age: 17
Seventeen year old Emily Ausmus is another of Team USA’s future stars who is already making a name for herself. She was only sixteen when she made her senior national team debut at the Intercontinental Cup, but she played so well that she was named the first reserve for the gold-medal team at the World Championships in Budapest. Coach Krikorian picked her for the first time at the World League Super Finals, where she played every game. Ausmus is the target player, and shows extreme cool in front of goal.
Club: Mediterrani/ Position: Defender/ Age: 19
The left-handed Spaniard is another of the hugely talented Spanish 2003 age-group. The reliable Mediterrani utility was a key feature for Miki Oca’s European Champion winning team in Split, and although she didn’t keep her place for the Super Finals in Tenerife, Prats, a wonderful defender, is certain to play a bigger role with the senior national team in 2023.
Club: Sant Andreu/ Position: Goalkeeper/ Age: 20
It might raise some eyebrows to include Martina Terre to this list, given she has already cemented her place as Spain’s number one keeper. But at 20 years old, the Sant Andreu keeper is still incredibly young, and has the potential to be one of Spain’s best ever keepers. Her two penalty saves in the gold medal match in Split were vital, as well as more heroics in Tenerife to guarantee her team a second gold in 2022. If she continues to develop at the same rate, Spain are bets on to secure more silverware in 2023.
Club: Mulhouse & Arizona Sun Devils/ Position: Driver/ Age: 18
Just a month after her eighteenth birthday, French left-hander Juliette D’halluin really is a special player. She has been a standout player for France’s youth teams, and caught the eye during the World Championships in Budapest with some remarkable goals. She has signed for the Arizona Sun Devils, and will no doubt light up their PAC-12 campaign this year.
Club: Polar Bears Ede/ Position: Wing/ Age: 18
Last year was definitely a breakthrough year for Lola Moolhuijzen, who is certainly the future of Dutch water polo. In her first major international competition, the World Championships, she had a fine outing, netting an incredible seventeen goals. The youngster became a star last season after scoring several spectacular goals and has since become known for her signature lob from the wing.
Club: Panionios GSS / Position: Attacker/ Age: 20
Israel enjoyed a wonderful year in 2022, and is preparing to host the European Championships this year. A crucial factor in their success has been the fine form of their star attacker, Maria Bogachenko. The twenty-year-old Greek forward has been consistently putting up outstanding performances for her club, Panionios GSS, and was the third leading goal scorer at the European Championships in Split. Often mentioned as a potential future captain for Israel, Bogachenko is a player to watch.
Club: Hawaii Wahine/ Position: Centre-Forward/ Age: 20
After making a name for herself in the United States with the Wahine team (she was named the Big West Conference’s newcomer of the year), McDowall blew everyone away at the World Championships in Budapest, where she finished as New Zealand’s top goal scorer. She is a really mature and powerful player, and she is right there leading the way for the New Zealand national team as they rise to prominence.
Club: Mataro / Position: Centre / Age: 19
Nogue, a versatile centre who is also a member of the Spanish class of 2003, is an incredibly well-developed player with a wealth of experience despite her youth. Miki Oca, her head coach, clearly values her as she played significant roles in all three major tournaments for Spain last season. While she isn’t a huge goal scorer, she works extremely hard for her team on both ends of the pool.
Club: Nice/INSEP / Position: Utility / Age: 18
A member of the Vernoux water polo family in France (Thomas and Romain), Ema is certainly a leading light for France heading into the Paris Olympic Games. The eighteen-year-old star is a lynchpin for Nice/INSEP and has been in the senior national team system from an extremely young age. She’s an excellent all-arounder who contributes greatly on both sides of the game.
Club: Stanford / Position: Centre / Age: 18
Ellen Woodhead, like Vernoux before her, comes from a prestigious water polo family; both her brothers, Quin and Dylan, play for the United States men’s national team. However, she might just have the most potential in her family to make it big in the sport. Woodhead, who just turned eighteen, has already made her senior debut and is a tremendously powerful centre for her age. She will be joining the Stanford Cardinal this coming winter, so 2023 could be her breakout year.
Club: Patra / Position: Centre / Age: 17
Dionysia Koureta, a 17-year-old prospect who plays for a “smaller” club in Greece called Patra, is a very exciting young player. She had a fantastic summer playing for the junior Greek national team, where she helped them win medals in both of their tournaments. A strong presence in the pool, and a team player, Koureta is already training with Alexia Kammenou and the senior national team – might 2023 see her first appearance for the senior national team?
Club: UVSE / Position: Driver / Age: 18
Among the best young players in Hungary, and another success story for UVSE’s youth programme. Our go-to cliche for describing Szegedi is “workhorse,” and for good reason. However, the work rate is matched by an excellent level of technical security. She made her debut with the senior national team last spring at the World League Super Finals, and she is sure to get a call-up to Attila Biro’s selection in some capacity in 2023.
Club: Olympiacos / Position: Attacker / Age: 17
A monster of a player at the age of just seventeen. After bossing age group waterpolo over the last few years (several top-scorer and MVP awards), Tricha was finally called up to the senior national team last season, and made a good contribution for Alexia Kammenou’s side on the way to a their European Championship silver medal. A big character, a confident player and a great leader despite her age, Tricha will no doubt continue to grow as a player into 2023.
Club: Het Ravijn / Position: Utility / Age: 18
A wonderful player to watch, and a brave player in the pool, the Dutch player Noa De Vries is well worth a close examination in 2023. At eighteen, she has already spent a year playing in the Hungarian league with Szentes, and received her first International senior call-up in December 2022. Now back at Het Ravijn, and proving to be a key player for her club, De Vries is one of the Netherlands most gifted players.
Club: UVSE / Position: Centre-forward / Age: 18
It’s been a challenging season for UVSE thus far, and a lot of pressure is being put on the young shoulders of centre-forward, Tekla Aubeli, who so far, has been very impressive. Aubeli is an underappreciated central forward who, at the tender age of eighteen, is already showing remarkable poise in the middle and earning her team valuable extra-player situations.
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