This weekend will see the return of the Spanish women’s League.
After a nail-biting conclusion to last year’s competition which saw Sabadell edge Mataro for their 18th Division de Honor title, this season is one of the most highly anticipated seasons in recent times.
In a country that currently holds the title of European champion, the Spanish League has a strong case for being the best domestic league on the continent – and the league is only getting stronger, attracting many of worlds best players to play in Spain.
The ongoing duel that encapsulates what the Spanish League is all about is between Sabadell and Mataro. While Sabadell have strengthened their roster, Mataro have matched their rivals in the transfer market, making for a seriously competitive title race this season. Sabadell may have won the league last year, but Mataro took home the major domestic trophies, including the Copa Catalunya, Super Cup, and Copa de la Reina. Two finals (the Copa de Catalunya and the Super Cup) have already been played between the two teams this season. The first bout was dominated by Sabadell, but Mataro avenged themselves in the second. Every time the two teams meet, fans are in for a blockbuster spectacle.
The division has quality everywhere, though. Mediterrani are looking really strong under their incredibly talented coach, Marian Diaz, while Terrassa and Sant Andreu have the squads to make for a really competitive race for fourth. Barceloneta are looking to take a big step forward this season, while Tenerife Echeyde, the newbies to the league, are ready to show their worth.
Participating teams: Sabadell, Mataro, Mediterrani, Terrassa, Sant Andreu, Rubi, Catalunya, Zaragoza, Boadilla, Barceloneta, Tenerife Echeyde
Position Last Season: 1st
Coach: David Palma
Key Players: Maica Garcia, Judith Forca, Bea Ortiz, Elena Ruiz, Irene Gonzalez
First game of the season: C.D Boadilla
When it comes to talking about the very best teams in women’s water polo, past and present, it’s really quite difficult to look past Sabadell. Only four times since the turn of the century has the Spanish Division de Honor not been won by the team from Can Llong, and you can’t help but think they have a good chance of winning their 20th title this year.
As if a team that boasts the quality of Maica Garcia, Judith Forca, Irene Gonzalez, or Sabrina Van der Sloot could get any better, the gluttonous additions of Bea Ortiz, Elena Ruiz, and Paula Leiton cement the status of this Sabadell team, quite simply, as a world-class outfit.
With the quality of their recruitment, as well as some of the younger players in the team, it’s hardly been mentioned that Sabadell will be without Maggie Steffens or Maartje Keuning next year.
Of course, they will need to be at their best to defeat the likes of Mataro and Mediterrani, but there is no getting away from the fact that, aside from a huge shock, a significant number of teams in the league simply won’t be able to match the quality of the reigning champions this season.
Position Last Season: 2nd
Coach: Dani Ballart
Key Players: Anni Espar, Rita Keszthelyi, Simone Van de Kraats, Vivian Sevenich, Silvia Avegno
First game of the season: CN Atletic-Barceloneta
While Sabadell won the league last season, the three domestic cups very much belonged to Mataro, who continued to make progress in becoming one of the continent’s top teams. Dani Ballart’s side pushed Sabadell to the very limit last season, and you can bet they will do the same this year.
All the focus has to be on the seismic transfer of Rita Keszthelyi-Nagy, who joins from UVSE. The Keszthelyi transfer somewhat overshadowed the signing of Silvia Avegno, the Italian league’s leading scorer from the previous season, who is a game-changer in her own right. After a few question marks over her future, Anni Espar will be at the club once again, alongside the returning duo from the Netherlands—sharpshooter Simone Van de Kraats and the high-performing Vivian Sevenich.
It is possible that Mataro will win the championship this year, but that outcome is entirely contingent on how well they play in the crucial play-off games near the end of the season.
A side note to Mataro’s domestic ambitions is their European ambitions in the Champions League. They missed out on the quarter-finals last season, but they will surely be confident of at least reaching the final eight, if not more, this season.
Position Last Season: 4th*
Coach: Marian Diaz
Key Players: Sarah Lizotte, Paula Crespi, Verica Bakoc, Gabi Palm, Alba Munoz, Paula Prats
First game of the season: CN Rubi
There is no question that Mediterrani is a club on the rise. While the eleven-time champions of Spain nearly caused a huge upset against Sabadell in the championship semi-finals last season, they ultimately fell slightly short.
This season, however, they have kept the core of the team intact while adding a number of exciting acquisitions. Verica Bakoc, Axelle Crevier, and Gabi Palm were brought in as proven, ready-to-go first-teamers, while Irene Costa and Daniela Moreno, two young Spanish stars, were signed as much with the future in mind, as the present. Paula Prats has an outstanding summer with the Spanish national teams.
Like Mataro, Mediterrani is a lock to end the season in the top four. Where exactly they will be placed in the regular phase of the league is more of a mystery. Ultimately, they are just shy of the talent at the disposal of Sabadell and just short of the experience of Mataro, but Medi will be an extremely tough game come the play-off games at the end of the season.
Position Last Season: 3rd*
Coach: Xavi Perez
Key Players: Pili Pena, Paula Camus, Nina Ten Broek,
First game of the season: CN Sant Feliu
At times last campaign, Terrassa looked like a team that could really assert themselves, but aside from a 7-7 draw against Mataro, a game they deserved to win, Xavi Perez’s team didn’t do enough against the top clubs around them to warrant any sight of the league title. With the quality gap between them and the top three, Terrassa is not likely to be a serious contender for the title.
Even so, Terrassa can be good. While it is difficult to legislate for the loss of two of their top players, Bea Ortiz and Paula Leiton (both of whom were acquired by Sabadell), they have brought in some quality foreigners, Kindred Paul, Fleurien Bosveld, and Dar Menakerman.
They might have to fend off yet another 4th place challenge from Sant Andreu, but a top four spot is still worth playing for.
Terrassa, along with Sabadell, Mataro, and Mediterrani, is the fourth Spanish club to qualify for the Women’s Champions League. However, they will have their hands full when they travel to Glyfada to play the hosts, Eger, ZV De Zaan, and Grand Nancy.
CN Sant Andreu
Position Last Season: 5th*
Coach: Javi Fernandez
Key Players: Ariadna Ruiz, Noelia Mora Perez, Hannah Ruckelshaus Shabb, Hayley Ballesty
First game of the season: ESC Zaragoza
Sant Andreu had a really respectable time in the Division de Honor last season. They didn’t quite have enough juice to return a top-for spot, but they will view that as a realistic objective for this season.
The team from Pere Serrat should have the quality to match most of the teams in the league. Their matchups with Mediterrani and Terrassa will be especially intriguing.
Position Last Season: 6th*
Coach: Karlos Ligero
Key Players: Amanda Trivino, Elia Jiminez, Raquel Prieto
First game of the season: CE Mediterrani
Rubi’s sixth-place finish from the previous season seems unlikely to be surpassed. Obviously, the departure of Elena Ruiz, the best player the club has produced since Bea Ortiz, will be the subject of much discussion. How they cope without Ruiz will be interesting.
Although they made Can Roses something of a fortress last season, a top-four finish is out of the question. The Red and Whites did manage to reach the semi-finals of the Copa de la Reina last year, so a decent run-out in the cup might be another aim for this season.
Position Last Season: 8th*
Coach: Paula Esteban
Key Players: Miriam Ciudad, Julia Tazueco
First game of the season: CN Sant Andreu
The waterpolo school in Zaragoza was a strong force last season, and the Aragonese will look to finish in the top ten once again. While their status in Spain’s top flight is not assured, they have begun to demonstrate the consistency necessary to expand a very successful program.
Position Last Season: 7th*
Coach: Gabor Egedi
Key Players: Berta Pascual, Cassidy Ball, Cecilia Leonard
First game of the season: Tenerife Echeyde
Catalunya produced about what was expected of them last season under the stewardship of Hungarian Gabor Egedi. This season, though, they will want to make sure they can finish in the top half of the table.
Position Last Season: 11th*
Coach: Marc Collas
Key Players: Roser Tarrago, Sandra Garcia, Nada Mandic,
First game of the season: CN Mataro
Barceloneta’s objective last season was to remain in the division, which they accomplished.
This year, though, they have added some players with pedigree to their roster, including veteran Roser Tarrago (from Echeyde) and Isabel Piralkova (Mataro). So aspirations for CNAB might be slightly higher, but a huge swing from last season’s 11th place is not expected.
Given the success of the men’s team, the prowess of the club is obviously undisputed. Nonetheless, there appears to be an emphasis on elevating the women’s team’s performance. But the team will have to achieve some good results to enable future progression.
Position Last Season: 9th*
Coach: Mar Rodriguez
Key Players: Giorgia Gallinato
First game of the season: Astralpool Sabadell
With the relegation of AR Concepcion Ciudad, CD Boadilla are the only team in the Division de Honor from (East) Madrid. It will be interesting to see how much Boadilla miss their best player from the previous season, Elisa Portillo, who has left the club to attend college in the United States. This year, the club added Abigail Siro (Peru) and Laura Kosis (Hungary) to their roster.
While it is difficult to say at this stage, they will need to ensure they take points off of the likes of Sant Feliu or Zaragoza to avoid the same fate as their Madrid rivals.
CN Sant Feliu
Position Last Season: 10th*
Coach: Jordi Timblau
Key Players: Blanca Goset, Mireia Bargallo, Judith Panicello, Natasha Trojan
First game of the season: CN Terrassa
Sant Feliu has been a mainstay in the Division de Honor for the past two decades, but they will need to be on guard this season to maintain their position as a first tier team in Spanish water polo, as several teams around them are improving. Feliu did well over the summer to acquire influential players like Judith Panicello and Croatian goalkeeper Natasha Trojan, who will immediately contribute to the team.
Position Last Season: Promoted from Primera Liga
Coach: Itziar Pavon
Key Players: Jessica Gauldreault, Emily Nicholson
First game of the season: CN Catalunya
The Division de Honor welcomes a new club to the division this season in the form of Tenerife Echeyde. While they are geographically separated from the other teams (1700 km to the nearest club, Boadilla), it will be interesting to see what the ability gap is in the pool.
Itziar Pavon, a former player who was hired as the team’s new coach for this season, was quick to sign a number of World Championship stars, including Jessica Gauldreault, Emily Nicholson, and Blaire McDowell. Elena Alcon and Maria Ramos were shrewd additions with some Division de Honor experience.
They are an unknown entity at the moment, but Echeyde have been active in the transfer market and will be hoping that the players they have acquired can at the very least keep them in the division. Their first match against Catalunya will be an exciting one.
2022 – Sabadell
2021 – Sabadell
2020 – Mataro
2019 – Sabadell
2018 – Sabadell
2017 – Sabadell
2016 – Sabadell
2015 – Sabadell
2014 – Sabadell
2013 – Sabadell
2012 – Sabadell
2011 – Sabadell
2010 – Mediterrani
2009 – Sabadell
2008 – Sabadell
2007 – Sabadell
2006 – Alcorcon
2005 – Sabadell
2004 – Sabadell
2003 – Mediterrani
2002 – Sabadell
2001 – Sabadell
2000 – Sabadell