Volos, Greece is the host of the 12th Women’s World Junior Water Polo Championship. The contest started on September 3 and will last until September 9. The preliminary stage saw the competition of sixteen teams divided into four groups. Netherlands, Greece, Italy, and Spain eventually emerged as group winners and advanced straight to the quarterfinals.
GROUP WINNERS IN QUARTERFINALS
Netherlands had the least easy job in preliminary stage on the first day of the Championship when they faced Russia but came away with a nice 7:5 win. Russia netted an opener for its first and only lead during the match. After the Dutch team achieved an important three-goal advantage (4:1) in the second quarter, Russian water polo players kept on bringing down the deficit to two until the end but were unable for more. In addition, Netherlands beat Hungary, 14:4, and Japan, 18:7, without problems. In both matches, the opponent managed to equalize after the Dutch squad took the first lead. But afterward, Netherlands completely took over the control and continuously increased the advantage.
The 2015 bronze medalists, Russia finished 2nd in Group A after defeating Japan, 20:8, and Hungary, 11:6. At no moment was Russia’s win questionable because neither of the two rivals was able to jeopardize Russia’s superb play.
Hungary proceeded to the eighth finals thanks to its narrow win against Japan, 12:11. In a clash which determined the 3rd place in the group, Hungary and Japan were taking turns in leading, both obviously aware of the importance of the match. It was not until the final period that the difference was two goals. Orsolya Vanda Hertzka and Szonja Kuna each scored a goal and put Hungary in a 12:10 lead while Japan failed to equalize.
Powerful Greece defeated all of its opponents in group stages very convincingly. Australia (12:6), South Africa (21:5) and China (18:6) were all powerless against the hosting team. Greek girls had their game on point and neither of their rivals was capable of keeping parity.
Australia edged out China, 9:8, and beat South Africa, 11:4, to win the 2nd place in Group B. China never took over the lead but equalized on two occasions in the first quarter which was an equal duel. Even though Australia went ahead 5:2 in the second quarter, and even 9:5 in the third, China did not surrender and stroke back in the final period in which it left Australia scoreless, but managed only to score three goals and bring down the deficit to one. In spite of a tied first quarter against South Africa, Aussies recorded their second win without difficulties.
China will compete for a place in the quarterfinals thanks to its victory over South Africa, 17:5.
Italy made no mistakes in their group and with no trouble triumphed over Serbia, 18:2, and Slovakia, 16:7. Serbian squad managed to a pair only in the first quarter, while Italy added 14 unanswered goals by the end for an emphatic win. Slovakia was down by five after the first quarter and was too weak to surmount this difference, as Italy proved too strong and gradually increased the lead. Italian ladies also held off Canada, 8:5. Canada kept parity in the first half which ended in a draw (4:4), but Italian water polo players then stepped up their game, went ahead 6:5 in the third quarter, and added a pair of unanswered goals in the final period to clinch the victory.
Canada water polo players had an easier job against Slovakia (12:7) and Serbia (14:4). They dominated from the beginning and secured two wins which enabled them to battle for the quarterfinals.
Serbia overpowered Slovakia, 11:8, and avoided the last spot in the group. Serbian ladies were leading from the start and demonstrated how motivated and determined they were to proceed to the next stage of the competition. Slovakia, on the other hand, had no chance of coming back and threatening.
Group D was the most exciting one since it included the 2015 gold and silver medalists, USA and Spain.
Both teams recorded convincing victories over Croatia and New Zealand, while their face-off ended in a draw.
The USA opened the Championship with a convincing 24:1 win against Croatia. Ryann Neushul led her team with five goals. New Zealand also had no chance against the reigning champion, even though the USA ladies were struggling in the first quarter which saw no goals. They stormed past the Kiwis in the second (5:2) and the fourth period (5:1) and thus recorded their second consecutive win in Volos.
In its first two matches, Spain squad received only five goals in total. They fulfilled their role of favorites and triumphed over New Zealand, 14:3, and Croatia, 18:2.
They clashed on Day 3 to determine the group winner and the result was tied, 9:9. The first quarter saw the USA and Spain take turns in leading, and the reigning champions were up by one in the end (3:2). USA ladies even went ahead 5:2 in the second quarter, but Spain brought back the difference to one by halftime (5:4). The defending champion then increased the lead to two in the third quarter (7:5), but Spain stroke back in the final period and tied the result on two occasions, but the USA kept coming back. With 15 seconds on the clock, Spain equalized for the third time for 9:9 and that was the final result. Eventually, Spain topped Group D thanks to the goal difference and became the fourth quarterfinalist.
New Zealand edged out Croatia, 10:9, in a match which determined which team would proceed to the eighth finals. Croatia had a 2:0 and a 3:1 lead in the first quarter, but New Zealand made a comeback in the second and went on a break with a 7:4 lead. Croatian ladies managed to equalize in the third quarter, but New Zealand had a one-goal advantage before the final eight minutes (8:7) and managed to preserve it until the end due to its on point defense.
FOUR QUARTERFINALISTS TO BE DETERMINED IN 1/8 FINALS
On September 6, teams which finished the group stage 2nd and 3rd will battle to proceed to the quarterfinals scheduled for September 7:
Russia (2A) vs. China (3B)
Hungary (3A) vs. Australia (2B)
Canada (2C) vs. New Zealand (3D)
Serbia (3C) vs. USA (2D)
Winless Japan, South Africa, Slovakia, and Croatia will compete for places 13-16.