Full marks to those who stayed up to watch all four quarter-final clashes in Long Beach, but even the biggest water polo enthusiast would concede none of the games were particularly exciting with regards to the end result.
Overnight, Hungary, Spain, the United States and the Netherlands all progressed to the semi-finals of the World Cup in Long Beach. The same four teams were semi-finalists at last year’s World League Super Finals in Tenerife.
The first two quarter-finals, featuring four teams from Division 1, looked to offer the most excitement. However, they were as one-sided as the proceeding two quarter-finals.
Hungary outscored Greece 20-13, before Spain pulled away from the Setterosa 12-5. Team USA and the Netherlands both defeated their respective Division 2 opponents, Israel and New Zealand, by ten scores.
22:00 – Israel vs Greece
00:00 – New Zealand vs Italy
02:00 – USA vs Hungary
04:00 – Netherlands vs Spain
22:00 – Israel vs Greece
Quarter-Finals, World Cup Finals, Long Beach
Hungary 20 – 13 Greece (6-2, 6-4, 3-2, 5-5)
Hungary: A. Magyari, D. Szilagyi, V. Baksa, G. Gurisatti, G. Mahieu 2, P. Tiba 2, P. Pocze 1, R. Keszthelyi 6, D. Leimeter 3, N. Rybanska 2, K. Farago 1, K. Garda 3, B. Neszmely.
Greece: C. Diamantopoulou, E. Plevritou 3, I. Chydirioti, N. Eleftheriadou 2, M. Plevritou, E. Xenaki 1, E. Ninou, E. Elliniadi, C. Siouti, V. Plevritou 3, A. Giannopoulou, M. Myriokefalitaki, I. Stamatopoulou.
Spain 12 – 5 Italy (2-2, 4-2, 4-1, 2-0)
Spain: L. Ester, P. Prats 1, A. Espar 1, B. Ortiz 1, N. Perez, P. Crespi, E. Ruiz 4, A. Ruiz, J. Forca 2, P. Camus, M. Garcia 1, P. Leiton, M. Terre.
Italy: A. Condorelli, C. Tabani, G. Galardi, S. Avegno, S. Giustini 2, D. Bettini, D. Picozzi 1, R. Bianconi, V. Palmieri, C. Marletta 1, A. Cocchiere, G. Viacava, C. Banchelli.
United States 16 – 6 Israel (5-0, 4-3, 3-0, 4-3)
United States: A. Johnson, M. Musselman 2, J. Sekulic 1, R. Fattal 1, E. Av. Johnson, M. Steffens, J. Romer 1, R. Neushul 3, E. Ausmus 1, K. Gilchrist 2, B. Weber, M. Flynn 3, A. Longan.
Israel: A. Peres, A. Yaacobi, Y. Farkash, M. Bogachenko 2, V. Kordonskaia, H. Futorian 1, S. Strugo 1, N. Levishtein, D. Namakshtansky, N. Sasover, T. Levi 1, R. Gazit, M. Kats.
New Zealand 5 – 15 Netherlands (1-2, 1-4, 0-6, 3-3)
New Zealand: J. Milicich, E. Nicholson, B. Doyle 1, L. Gault, G. Milicich, I. Jackson, E. Houghton 3, K. McKenty, S. Shorter-Robinson, G. Macdonald, K. Horwath, M. Quin 1, B. Layburn
Netherlands: L. Aarts, M. Schaap 1, B. Sleeking 3, S. Van der Sloot 2, M. Keuning 1, S. Van de Kraats 3, B. Rogge 1, M. Van der Weijden 2, K. Joustra 1, L. Rogge, L. Moolhuijzen 1, N. Ten Broek, S. Buis.
There wasn’t much expert defending on show in the first quarter-final between Hungary and Greece, with the Magyar’s dominating in a 33-goal blast.
Rita Keszthelyi was Hungary’s talisman on the scoresheet with 6 goals, but Hungary were really slick with a numerical advantage, converting 8/10 (80%) extra-player moves.
By halftime, the Hungarians had already secured a commanding lead with a dozen goals, courtesy of stellar performances by Natasa Rybanska and Krisztina Garda, each scoring twice. Although Greece briefly narrowed the gap to two goals in the second quarter, five consecutive strikes by Hungary quickly diffused any mounting pressure on Attila Biro’s squad, widening the margin to 12-5.
Following the intermission, a rapid succession of goals from Rita Keszthelyi effectively extinguished any hope of a Greek comeback, pushing the score to 14-6. Nevertheless, capitalising on the Hungarian team’s momentarily diminished focus, Greece managed to salvage some ground in the second half. Notably, Vasiliki and Eleftheria Plevritou spearheaded their team’s offensive efforts, netting hat-tricks and ultimately bringing the score to 20-13.
Hungary will face the United States in the semi-finals.
Spain had to be patient, but showed their quality in overcoming Italy 12-5. The Setterosa has stunned the reigning European champions in the preliminary round of the World Cup in Rotterdam, but no such surprise was on offer this time.
Although the Spanish team did not perform at their absolute best, particularly in terms of goal-scoring, Italy fared even worse. A remarkable individual display by Elena Ruiz proved to be instrumental in Spain’s victory, as she contributed four goals, along with a couple of assists and steals.
The 18-year-old Ruiz made an impressive impact right from the start, scoring both of Spain’s opening goals. However, the match reached a deadlock after eight minutes, with the score standing at 2-2. Spain swiftly regained control with two goals in their next two attacks, courtesy of Miki Oca’s team, with Ruiz completing her hat-trick within nine minutes. Italy managed to stay competitive and remained within striking distance by halftime, with the score at 6-4.
Spain’s powerplay conversion was not particularly great in the match, but it was key in the third period, where three extra-player goals (Ruiz, Ortiz and Leiton) gave the Spaniard’s a big advantage. A second goal inside two attacks from Leiton on the buzzer took Spain to double-digits (10-5), and eight minutes from another semi-final. The World League Champions held their ground in the last, shutting out a frustrated Setterosa.
The new format promotes the opportunity for lower ranked teams to reach the bigger tournaments, and while Israel and New Zealand’s attendance will provided excellent learning for their respective programmes, both were well-beaten in their quarter-finals by ten scores; Israel fell to the hosts and reigning Olympic champions USA, 16-6, while New Zealand lost 15-5 to the Netherlands.
A quick start in the first quarter, which saw Team USA lead 5-0 after eight minutes, helped the hosts bypass Israel 16-6.
The United States were functioning typically well against Israel, with encouraging signs in all facets of their game. Their extra-player moves were well-executed (71%), and some disciplined defending saw them concede only six goals, and six exclusions.
Stanford teammates Jenna Flynn and Ryan Neushul were the hat-trick heroes for the USA, as they prepare to face Hungary in the semi-finals.
The final game of the day saw the Netherlands boss New Zealand 15-5.
The Kiwi’s held their own in the first half, trailing 2-1 and then 3-2. However, a goal-less 15 minutes from Angie Winstanley’s side, accompanied by some deadly Dutch counter-attacking took the game away from the Southern-Hemisphere’s sole representative.
The Dutch, led by the hat-tricks of Simone van de Kraats and Brigitte Sleeking, won on their quality, but will need to improve many areas of their game against Spain in the semi-finals – not least their powerplay execution, which sat at 0 from 4 against the Kiwis.
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