The 12th Women’s World Junior Water Polo Championship hosted by Volos, Greece, is over. In the gold medal match on September 9, Russia triumphed over Greece, while Netherlands finished 3rd after defeating Spain.
Russia won gold after a thriller against host Greece. The hero of the game was Russia’s captain, Bella Khamzaeva, who scored the decisive goal and brought Russia a 17:16 win. The first half saw an equal duel and understandably ended in a draw (7:7). Russia stepped up its defense in the third quarter and managed to score two unanswered goals, but Greece did the same in the final period, so the result was tied after four quarters (9:9) and the winner was determined after an exciting penalty shootout. The top scorers were Russia’s Daria Gerzanich and Greece’s Eleftheria Plevriotu who each scored five goals.
The bronze medal match was also interesting and both the Netherlands and Spain take turns in leading. Spain went ahead 3:1 in the first quarter, but Dutch ladies equalized before the end (3:3). Spain also failed to keep the minimum advantage in the second quarter and the first half ended in a draw (4:4). Lizette Rozeboom’s goal put the Netherlands into the lead for the first time. Spain tied the result only once after which it lost the control and the Netherlands eventually achieved a three-goal advantage (9:6) and won the 3rd place.
Two eighth final matches saw no suspense. Russia defeated China, 9:5, and USA ladies overpowered Serbia, 10:1, to advance to the quarterfinals. In addition, two more quarterfinalists were determined – Canada was better than New Zealand, 9:6, whereas Hungary beat Australia, 8:5.
In the quarterfinals, Netherlands and Spain recorded convincing victories justifying their role of favorites as group winners. The Dutch squad beat Canada, 10:2, and Spain rolled past Hungary, 15:8. Netherlands was led by Brigit Mulder who scored three goals, as many as Paula Crespi, Alba Bonamusa and Alejandra Aznar each did for Spain.
In the low scoring matches, host Greece prevailed over the USA, 4:3, and Italy was edged out by Russia, 5:4. Sarah Klass scored the first goal for the USA, but Eleftheria Plevritou equalized 90 seconds before the end of the first quarter. After the first half ended in a draw (2:2), the USA was again leading after Liebowitz’s second goal, but Xenaki equalized immediately and later netted her third goal for a minimum advantage of the Greek team. The game saw no more goals until the end, so Greece celebrated proceeding to the semifinals where it played against the Netherlands. Italy was the only group winner that failed to triumph in the quarterfinal match. Russia got off to a better start and had a 2:0 lead in the middle of the second quarter. Chiara Ranalli cut the deficit to one two seconds before the break. Russia went up by two on three more occasions, but Italy was unable to equalize. Russia emerged as the fourth semifinalist and scheduled a face-off against Spain.
Host Greece achieved another narrow and spectacular victory, this time over the Netherlands, 7:6. Dutch girls were powerful at the beginning and netted a pair leaving Greece scoreless in the first quarter. Greek squad then woke up and managed to bring down the deficit before the halftime (4:3). Xenaki equalized in the third period, but Netherlands responded. Then Plevritou netted an equalizer and Elisavet Protopapa put Greece into the lead (6:5) before the final eight minutes. The result was tied against after Brigitte Sleeking’s goal, but Nikoleta Eleftheriadou was the hero of the game as she scored with less than four minutes left on the clock. Due to the impeccable Greece’s defense, they advanced to the gold-medal match.
In a clash between the 2015 bronze and silver medalists, Russia overpowered Spain, 9:6. Spain achieved a 2:0 advantage in the middle of the first quarter and Russia reduced it to one. In the second period, Russia equalized only to see Spain go ahead 4:2. However, Russia stroke back and was again down by one at halftime (4:3). The third quarter was crucial for Russia’s triumph as they tied the result again and achieved a two-goal lead (6:4). Spain still had their hopes high being down by one before the final period (6:5). Spain was not allowed to come any closer until the end, as Russian squad’s defense was on point and they achieved a better result than in 2015.
The 2015 champion recorded a narrow 11:9 win against Canada, and went on to face Hungarian squad which held off Italy, 4:3. USA ladies won the 5th place after defeating Hungary, 4:2, while Italy triumphed over Canada, 7:4, and finished 7th. The USA entered the 5th spot game very determined to achieve the best possible result after failing to advance to the semifinals. Ryann Neushul scored the opener, but Hungarian squad responded with a pair and had a 2:1 advantage after the first quarter. However, USA ladies stroke back and completely dominated the rest of the match during which Hungary was scoreless. Neushul was the top scorer with two goals. Italy had a 3:1 lead at halftime and increased it in the second half while Canada had no chance of jeopardizing Italy’s victory.
Australia stormed past Serbia, 15:5, and scheduled the face-off for the 9th place against China which recorded a narrow 10:8 win against New Zealand. In an exciting match, China edged out Australia, 12:11, but the teams were taking turns in leading during the game. China took the first lead, and Aussies stroke back and went ahead 5:3 in the first quarter. The result was tied at halftime, and China entered the final period with a minimum advantage (11:10) and kept it until the end. New Zealand excelled against Serbia, 11:4, and ended up being 11th. Lara Luka netted an opener for Serbia, but New Zealand quickly took over the control. They went on a break with a five-goal lead and it was impossible for Serbia to surmount that difference.
Japan, South Africa, Slovakia, and Croatia finished last in their group after the preliminary stage and played two more matches to determine places 13-16. The match for the 13th place saw the encounter between Japan, which previously with no trouble beat South Africa, 13:4, and Slovakia, which easily triumphed over Croatia, 11:5. However, Slovakia was helpless against Japanese squad which eventually finished 13th after a convincing 21:4 win. South Africa emerged as the winner of the 15th spot after defeating Croatia, 8:6.
12th Women’s World Junior Water Polo Championship (Volos, Greece)
September 3-9, 2017
11. New Zealand
15. South Africa