The Eighteenth and last Women’s World League Super Finals begin this week to conclude an incredibly interesting, exciting, draining and quite frankly manic year of international competition.
The grand final of the World League, which FINA announced will now be replaced by the World Cup, returns to Santa Cruz de Tenerife for the second time in the competition’s history – with Santa Cruz playing host to the tournament back in 2008. The European nations that qualified for the Super Finals were in Tenerife for the Euro Finals six months ago.
Eight of the world’s top teams descend on the largest of the Canary Islands for five days (2nd-6th November) of exciting action. In Group A, we have two North American teams; the United States and Canada, as well as fierce European rivals – the Netherlands and Italy. The two southern hemisphere sides, Australia and New Zealand, are in Group B, alongside the European Champions Spain, and Hungary.
The top two teams from each group head straight to the semi-finals, while the other teams will play for classification, meaning there is very little margin for error for any of the nations vying for a medal.
You can read the preview for Group B here
World League 2020/21: 4th
Best results in the World League: Silver (2)
Road to Tenerife: 2nd World League Intercontinental Cup, Lima
Head coach: David Paradelo
Roster: Jessica Gauldreault, Clara Vulpisi, Hayley McKelvey, Axelle Crevier, Verica Bakoc, Shae La Roche, Rae Lekness, Emma Wright, Marilla Mimidis, Blaire McDowell, Kindred Paul, Daphne Guevremont, Floranne Carroll, Kyra Christmas
The World Championships in Budapest were a disappointing showing from the Canadians, as they failed to finish inside the top eight, a place they should be. In part that was due to a very tough draw; being in the same group as both Hungary and Italy – but that’s what top-level competitions give you, and their World League Super Finals draw is no easier.
The Maples certainly have a talented squad, with so many of their team now taking up leading roles in some of Europe’s top clubs. Hayley McKelvey was their top scorer from the World Championships, and is enjoying a solid start to her season with her new club Plebiscito Padova. Canada can now boast two outstanding left-handers; Kyra Christmas (Olympiacos) and Verica Bakoc (Mediterrani). Emma Wright is fast developing into a hugely impactful player for David Paradelo’s team, and we await her to make her first appearance for NC Vouliagmeni. Jessica Gauldreault has made that starting spot in goal her own; Gauldreault and Blaire McDowell will no doubt feel at home playing in Tenerife – having both made four appearances for the club there, Echeyde, already this season.
Canada might perhaps be the underdogs in a star-studded Group A. But they will believe they have the quality to match all of the teams in their group. Their first game is against Italy – a team they held to a 7-7 tie in Budapest earlier this season.
World League 2020/21: Did not qualify
Best results in the World League: Silver (1), Bronze (1)
Road to Tenerife: 1st World League Euro Finals, Tenerife
Head coach: Eva Doudesis
Roster: Britt van den Dobbelsteen, Sarah Buis, Bente Rogge, Maxine Schaap, Noa de Vries, Vivian Sevenich, Simone van de Kraats, Fleurien Bosveld, Nina ten Broek, Iris Wolves, Marit van der Weijden, Maartje Keuning, Brigitte Sleeking, Lola Moolhuijzen
The Netherlands is getting closer to becoming the finished product under Eva Doudesis. But defeats to Spain and Italy when it mattered at the European Championships in Split still highlight some tactical rigidity and perhaps a softness that needs to be ironed out if they are to realise their full potential.
The Dutch enjoyed their last visit to Tenerife, in which they defeated the hosts, Spain, to win the Euro Finals back in April, but they come back to the Canary Islands short of two of their experienced players, Sabrina Van der Sloot and Laura Aarts, who are given some well-earned time off.
Nonetheless, many of the squad have gotten off to strong starts for their clubs across Europe, and will be in good shape for these Super Finals. Sharp-shooters Simone Van de Kraats, Brigitte Sleeking and Lola Moolhuizjen will provide the attacking threat on the top, while Iris Wolves (Glyfada) and Nina Ten Broek (Terrassa) have been in good form for their clubs.
The Netherlands lost narrowly to the United States last Friday, but they will generally be with a stronger team in Tenerife, so expect their fixture with the United States to be a different contest in the opening game of the tournament.
World League 2020/21: 1st
Best results in the World League: Gold (14), Silver (1), Bronze (1)
Road to Tenerife: 3rd World League Intercontinental Cup, Lima
Head coach: Adam Krikorian
Roster: Ashleigh Johnson, Amanda Longan, Rachel Fattal, Ryan Neushul, Jordan Raney, Ava Johnson, Denise Mammolito, Tara Prentice, Bayley Weber, Jewel Roemer, Emily Ausmus, Hannah Shabb, Jenna Flynn, Ella Woodhead
There is an inevitability about the United States when it comes to major international competitions, and the World League is something that Adam Krikorian takes very seriously. His American side comes into this competition having won the last seven editions of the tournament dating back to 2014. Only three times out of seventeen World League competitions have the United States’ not been atop the podium.
Recent pre-tournament analyses of the United States at major tournaments have centred on the question, ‘who can stop them this time?’, and for sure, there are plenty of teams capable of going toe-to-toe with the triple-reigning Olympic champions. But no nation has shown the flawless defence, the devastating attack, the poise and the consistency of performance like the Americans have, which is why they are, sometimes boringly, in a class of their own.
However, this Team USA is missing some heavy hitters, including Maddie Musselman, Maggie Steffens, Kaleigh Gilchrist, and Stef Haralabidis. Their absences will certainly leave a void that needs filling, and teams will look to exploit that. There are still some world-class players in the team, the likes of Rachel Fattal, Ashleigh Johnson, and Jordan Raney, but many of the new players need to cement themselves into the future plans building towards the Paris Olympics. The team is strong, but the depth of previous tournaments is not there.
Krikorian’s show of faith in youngsters such as Emily Ausmus, Ella Woodhead, and Jenna Flynn could be a perfectly-calculated decision in player development, but could also leave the side a bit inexperienced at the back-end of the tournament.
The Americans kick off their tournament against their neighbours, Canada, a team they lost to at the Intercontinental cup.
World League 2020/21: Did not qualify
Best results in the World League: Silver (4), Bronze (1)
Road to Tenerife: 3rd World League Euro Finals, Tenerife
Head coach: Carlo Silipo
Roster: Caterina Banchelli, Aurora Condorelli, Roberta Bianconi, Lucrezia Cergol, Silvia Avegno, Chiara Tabani, Giuditta Galardi, Agnese Cocchiere, Sofia Giustini, Domitilla Picozzi, Luna di Claudio, Valeria Palmieri, Claudia Marletta, Giulia Viacava, Dafne Bettini
Italy is a team in the ascendancy, and the bronze medal at the European Championships in Split was a breakthrough of sorts for the Setterosa. Under Carlo Silipo, the Italians have finished in the top four of the last three international tournaments, dating back to the World League Euro Finals in Tenerife in April. But what was special about the result in Split was that they finally had a prize at a major tournament to end their medal drought.
Silipo seems to have found a group of players in whom he has confidence, and the Italians will hope that they can benefit from the consistency and stability of deploying an identical squad from Split.
Sofia Giustini, Silvia Avegno and Dafne Bettini seem to be taking their game to the next level at the moment, while the experienced Roberta Bianconi is ageing like a fine wine.
The Italians will likely benefit from a redacted tournament format in which the top two teams from each group go straight to the semi-finals. They begin their Super Finals campaign against Italy, just as they did at the World Championships in Budapest.
Wednesday, 2nd November
08:40 – Netherlands vs United States
10:20 – Australia vs Hungary
12:00 – Canada vs Italy
13:40 – Spain vs New Zealand
Thursday, 3rd November
08:40 – Canada vs United States
10:20 – Netherlands vs Italy
12:00 – Australia vs New Zealand
13:40 – Spain vs Hungary
Friday, 4th November
08:40 – Netherlands vs Canada
10:20 – New Zealand vs Hungary
12:00 – United States vs Italy
13:40 – Spain vs Australia
Saturday, 5th November
08:40 – 3a vs 4b (game 13) (5th-8th SF)
10:20 – 3b vs 4a (game 14) (5th-8th SF)
12:00 – 1a vs 2b (game 15) (Semi Final 1)
13:40 – 1b vs 2a (game 16) (Semi Final 2)
Sunday, 6th November
08:40 – Loser game 13 vs loser game 14 (7th-8th)
10:20 – Winner game 13 vs winner game 14 (5th-6th)
12:00 – Loser game 15 vs loser game 16 (Bronze)
13:40 – Winner game 15 vs winner game 16 (Final)
2020, Athens – United States
2019, Budapest – United States
2018, Kunshan – United States
2017, Shanghai – United States
2016, Shanghai – United States
2015, Shanghai – United States
2014, Kunshan – United States
2013, Beijing – China
2012, Changshu – United States
2011, Tianjin – United States
2010, La Jolla – United States
2009, Kirishi – United States
2008, Santa Cruz – Russia
2007, Montreal – United States
2006, Cosenza – United States
2005, Kirishi – Greece
2004, Long Beach – United States
Read more about the FINA World league