Italy and USA will play for the 2016 Olympics women’s water polo gold medal. Both reached the final on Wednesday winning their respective semi-final battles. Italy got back to playing for gold for the first time since 2004 by beating Russia in another solid performance 9-12 while reigning champions USA will get a shot to become the first team to defend their Olympic gold. The Americans held off a fierce Hungarian squad in the first major test for the Adam Krikorian coached side this tournament: 10-14.
Team USA, the gold medal favourites dominating international competition for the past years, experienced their first real test this tournament in playing a determined Hungarian side in the final game on Wednesday. The teams got off to a balanced start before USA chipped away in the second. Thanks to another display of the teams deep roster with Maggie Steffens leading the way with 4 goals, the Americans led 5-8 at half-time and in the second managed to consolidate that advantage. Hungary fought hard and didn’t allow USA to walk away further but that wasn’t necessary. In the final period goals by Kiley Neushul and Steffens had USA in the lead 8-13 and 9-14 before Rita Keszthelyi decided the final score at 10-14 with her 4th of the game in the final 30 seconds on extra man. USA’s win had been looking certain for most the final quarter already as they will now face 2004 champions Italy who claimed a finals spot to confirm a successful tournament as they controlled Russia 9-12.
The Italian women made the difference in the second and third term where they grabbed control and did not let go despite a 9-goal scoring festival in the final period. There the Russians went on a scoring tear netting 5 shots past the usually tough Italian defence but the Fabio conti coached side was right there to respond not to let this historic victory slip. Ariana Garibotti was on fire scoring a game-high 5 goals for the winners.
In the semifinals for 5th-8th place Australia dominated Brazil 11-4 and will now play Spain for 5th place after they defeated China 11-6.
Women Semi-final Round – Wednesday, August 17 – day 11
Australia vs. Brazil 11-4 (2-1, 3-1, 4-1, 2-1) – 5th-8th place classification semi-finals
Australia scorers: Southern 3, Arancini 3, Knox, McGhie, Buckling, Lincoln-Smith, Zagame.
Brazil scorers: Chiappini 2, Oliveira, Duarte.
Russia vs. Italy 9-12 (2-2, 2-4, 0-2, 5-4) – semi-final 1
Russia scorers: Ivanova 2, Lisunova 2, Grineva, Soboleva, Gorbunova, Prokofyeva, Glyzina.
Italy scorers: Garibotti 5, Bianconi 2, Tabani 2, Radicchi, Di Mario, Queirolo.
Spain vs. China 11-6 (2-2, 2-0, 4-2, 3-2) – 5th-8th place classification semi-finals
Spain scorers: Forca 2, Lopez 2, Garcia 2, Peña 2, Espar 2, Tarrago.
China scorers: Ma 2, J. Zhang, Zhao, C. Zhang, Niu.
Hungary vs. USA 10-14 (2-3, 3-5, 3-4, 2-2) – semi-final 2
Hungary scorers: Keszthelyi 4, Kisteleki 2, Bujka 2, Garda, Czigany.
USA scorers: Steffens 4, Neushul 2, Musselman 2, Fattal, Mathewson, M. Fischer, Craig, Seidemann, Gilchrist.