Courtesy: LEN Media
In the history books Spain will appear as the first-ever winner of the women’s U15 European Water Polo Championships. The Spaniards beat Russia in the penalty-shootout to claim the title while Greece earned the bronze medal in the inaugural edition of this event, held in Kirishi.
- Czech Republic
Top scorers: Noa de Vries (NED) & Ema Vernoux (FRA), 29 goals each.
MVP: Mariona Terre (ESP).
Best goalkeeper: Blanca Colominas (ESP).
In the footsteps of their seniors, the young Spain players managed to become European champions after winning a thrilling final over Russia. It was an even game for three periods, then the hosts took an 8-10 lead in 43 seconds. At 9-10 they had four 6 on 5s but the Spanish defense did a great job and with 2:14 to go Elena Ruiz equalized from action for 10-10. And Ruiz became the hero of the shootout: she missed the very first shot but in the following rounds the misses and the goals were equal – so she could step up in the sixth round again, netted her shot then goalie of the tournament Mariona Terre delivered the decisive save to ensure gold for Spain (14-13).
Interestingly, they also won 14-13 in the semis, though in the regular time, against the Netherlands. It was another thriller as Spain was four goals up shortly before halftime and led 12-9 early in the fourth but the Dutch levelled the score at 13-13. There came Ruiz – a key for Spain’s successful march – and converted a penalty 14 seconds from time.
Russia beat Greece in the other semis 12-10 despite some heroics from Foteini Tricha who scored 7 for the Greeks in this game. She then led her team to the third step of the podium as they beat the Netherlands 12-7.
Earlier, the Dutch edged out Hungary in the quarters 11-10, that was the closest contest in that stage. As for the final ranks, those mirror almost the same order as we got used to at other levels with one exception: the Croatians managed to finish 6th, an impressive result from a nation which could never make the top ten in any women’s tournament earlier.
Though their age seemed to be tender, the youngest generation of water polo players staged a competition which reminded everyone of the biggest battles witnessed at elite level. LEN has launched this new age-group event in order to meet the National Federations’ demands to create a competitive environment for these youngsters as this contributes a great deal to their development.
The boys’ U15 championships will begin on 21 July in Burgas (BUL), LEN shall offer free live streaming from each game of that tournament.