This past weekend, the Brazilian Water Polo League 2022-2023 (Liga PAB – Polo Aquático Brasil) came to a climax. After some exciting action in the previous two rounds late last year, all eyes were focused on the finals this past weekend in Bauru, São Paulo.
With only three participating teams in the women’s competition, there was a big surprise with ABDA (Associação Bauruense de Desportos Aquáticos) winning their first title on the senior level. They defeated the favourites and former champions, Esporte Clube Pinheiros – plays for. Third place stayed with Clube de Regatas do Flamengo who were only able to win one game, their final one against ABDA.
In the game itself, Pinheiros started strong and was able to open a 3 goal lead heading to the last quarter, but ABDA lead by the young and exciting Brazilian international, Leticia Belório, never stopped trying and won the game 9-8 (with a 4-0 in the last quarter). Leticia was elected the MVP of the League while Izabella Chiappini, formerly of the Italian national team, was the top scorer. The accolade of best goalkeeper fell in the hands of Thatiana Pregolini from Esporte Clube Pinheiros.
Seven teams were in contention for the men’s title. In the first phase, SESI-SP won all the games and earned a spot directly in the semifinals, while the other six teams had a game to decide the other matchups.
In the first quarterfinal, Clube Athletico Paulistano defeated Fluminense Club by 8-7, while Clube de Regatas do Flamengo won against Clube Paineiras do Morumby, 15-8. Those results led to Flamengo facing Paulistano in the semis. A big surprise came in the last quarter when ABDA, with an extremely young team practically made up of U21s, defeated Pinheiro on penalties. ABDA’s goalie, Murilo Henrique, stopped 3 penalties and led his team to the semis against SESI-SP.
As the semi-finals approached, SESI-SP with the experience of Gustavo Coutinho, defeated ABDA 8-5. While Flamengo narrowly edged out Paulistano by 7-6 with the winning goal coming with 30 seconds left courtesy of Lucas.
The final was as exciting as the rest of the tournament, with just a single score separating SESI-SP and Flamengo. SESI-SP started on the front foot and opened up a lead of 7-2, but the young Flamengo kept playing strong and turned it into a one goal game in the last quarter. With a solid defence, coming from the MVP and best goalie of the tournament, João Gabriel, SESI-SP won the game 10-9 and won their 5th title. . The top scorer of the tournament was Pedro Vergara from Paineiras.
In the bronze medal match, ABDA made history by downing Paulistano 11-9, which solidified ABDA’s first ever podium finish in the national league.