USA, Italy Will Meet Sunday for Women’s Water Polo Super Final Title

FINA WOMEN’S WATER POLO WORLD LEAGUE SUPER FINAL

The United States and Italy kept their respective win streaks alive, each earning a spot in Sunday’s World League Super Final title match with semifinal victories on Saturday.

For its part, Team USA downed the Netherlands 8-6, while the Italians crept past Russia 13-12 in a shootout.

The Americans are seeking their sixth straight Super Final crown and 13th overall. Italy, meanwhile will at the very least match its best showing, runnerup efforts in 2006 and 2014. The United States won the title both of those years and also topped the Italians in the title game of the 2016 Olympics.

In other Super Final action, Hungary edged past China 15-14 and Australia topped Canada 15-9. Hungary and Australia will face off for fifth place on Sunday, while China and Canada will vie for seventh place.

Updated Bracket

Results

5th through 8th place seeding games

Hungary def. China 15-14

Australia def. Canada 15-9

Semifinals

USA def. Netherlands 8-6

Italy def. Russia 13-12

SEMIFINALS

USA def. Netherlands 8-6

In an identical score to last year’s Super Final title match, the United States topped the Dutch 8-6.

Maddie Musselman, Maggie Steffens and Kiley Neushul put in two goals apiece to lead the Americans offensively, while Ashleigh Johnson stopped 60 percent of the shots she faced (9 of 15).

Megens was the top scorer for the Dutch with two goals, while Laura Aarts boasted a 50 percent save percentage in goal (8 of 16).

The Netherlands scored first on a Maud Megens penalty shot (5:46), but the USA followed with three in a row to seize control of the game. Neusheul (4:23), Alys Williams (3:24) and Makenzie Fischer (0:26) put the Americans on top.

Dagmar Genee had the Dutch back within one just over a minute later (7:07), but the United States responded with a 3-1 run, netting an extra-player shot by Steffens (5:53), a penalty by Neushul (2:37) and a goal by Musselman (1:41), to go up 6-3 at the half.

The Netherlands rallied to within one at 7-6 as Sabrina van der Sloot (4:33), Maartje Keuning (1:40) and Megens (penalty 5:53 in the 4th) scored.

Steffens put in an insurance goal with 5:36 remaining to close out the scoring.

“That was a tough win for us but it was exactly what we could expect from the Netherlands,” USA head coach Adam Krikorian said. “They have a very good team. We knew that they would never give up. That is what happened today. I was not too happy with the way we played in the third quarter. We did not handle certain situations very well in the fourth as well. Now we have a lot of food for analyses, which is very exciting for the coaching side.”

Italy def. Russia 13-12

Silvia Avegno and Elisa Quierolo turned hat tricks and three other players notched two goals to help lift Italy past the 2018 bronze medalists from Russia. Giulia Gorlero saved 10 of the 22 shots she faced (45 percent), while Eugenia Lavi was a perfect 1-for-1.

Anastasia Simanovich made all five of her shots for Russia, while Ekaterina Prokofyeva and Elvina Karimova chipped in two goals apiece in the losing effort. Anna Karnaukh faced 29 shots, saving 16 (55 percent).

Italy jumped out to a 6-2 advantage in the first quarter as Quierolo (7:15), Izabella Chiappini (5:48), Roberta Bianconi (4:03), Arianna Garibotti (2:34), Domitilla Picozzi (0:52) and Avegno each found the back of the net.

The game went quiet for the first seven minutes of the second quarter, until Quierolo (1:22) put Italy up 7-2. Russia narrowed the gap to two at 7-5 with a flurry of goals in the final minute of the half and the first minute of the third period. Daria Gerzanich (0:56), Karimova (0:16) and Prokofyeva (7:07) did the honors.

Russia eventually tied it up at 8-all on a Karimova goal with 2:48 left in the game. Simanovich gave the team a brief advantage (9-8) at the 1:57 mark. Garibotti leveled the score at 9 to sent the game to a shootout.

Italy clinched the win with a 4-3 edge in the shootout.

“We had a very strong start with lots of goals, however we couldn’t keep up this intensity,” Italian coach Fabio Conti said. “Not just because we are getting tired (footnote: we had 5 matches in 5 days), but also because Russia changed tactics, and hence added to the pressure. This is waterpolo, everything can change so quickly, however I like these kind of matches. After the game I told the girls how proud I am, because this win was absolutely neither about the physical strength nor about tactics, but about the mentality they have. Tomorrow we are facing the best team in the world in the gold medal final. The task ahead of us is ambitious and challenging, and very difficult to realize.”

CLASSIFICATION

Hungary def. China 15-14

Hungary led 8-4 at halftime, giving it the cushion to withstand a 10-goal push by the China in the final 16 minutes.

Dorottya Szilagyi went 5-for-5 to lead the Hungarian offense, while Rita Kesthelyi and Vanda Valyi registered hat tricks. Goalkeeper Edina Gangl was 50 percent on her save attempts (14 of 28).

Xiao Chen paced China with a hat trick, while Xinyuan Wang, Huan Wang, Yiwen Lu and Danyi Zhang notched two goals apiece. Lin Peng made just four saves among the 19 shots she faced (21 percent).

Hungary built a 4-1 advantage in the first nine minutes as Szilagyi (6:57), Valyi (4:25), Rebecca Parkes (2:58) and Aniko Gyongyossy (7:46) found the back of the net.

The teams split the next four goals, before the Hungarians pulled ahead 9-4 with a 3-0 run, including two Szilagyi scores (2:58, 7:22). Hungary’s advantage surged to six at 11-5 as Szilagyi struck again (5:36) and Valyi followed (4:08).

China turned the tables after that, chipping away and pulling within one at 13-12. The Chinese first narrowed the gap to 12-9 in the third quarter with goals by Zhang (3:46), Chen (2:59, 0:58) and Lu (1:33).  China then used a 3-0 run by Dunhan Xiong (4:28), Chen (4:01) and Lu (3:00) to make it one score game.

Keszthelyi scored twice to give Hungary some breathing room (1:51, penalty 1:15). China countered with two goals of its own but ran out of time to complete the comeback: Huan Wang (0:48) and Zhao (0:08).

“We played a very difficult game against China,” Szilagyi said. “We could not show our best, especially on the defensive side. The 5-goal lead went down to nothing. I never watch the scoreboard playing, but we could feel we are wasting the difference, and we needed to be more concentrated. Chinese never gave up, unfortunately for us, and proceeded fighting till the final buzzer. We are happy that we have secured the win, and that we will advance to the final for the 5th place.”

Australia def. Canada 15-9

Rowie Webster put in six goals and Zoe Arancini added four as Australia made quick work of Canada, rallying from down 3-2 to outscore its foes 13-6 down the stretch. Lilian Hedges made nine saves for the Aussies, stopping half of the shots she faced (18).

Joelle Bekhazi was the top scorer for the Canadians, turning in a hat trick, while Elyse Lemay-Lavoie added two goals. Claire Wright was 7 for 18 on save chances, while Clara Vulpisi gave up a goal on all four shots she faced.

Canada’s Kyra Christmas opened the scoring at 6:05 in the first. The Aussies put in two goals, one by Webster (4:57) and a 5-meter shot by Keesja Gofers (3:00), but Lemay gave the Canadians back the lead at 3-2 (1:06) on a center shot.

From there, the Aussies blanked Canada 4-0 in the second quarter, including three Webster scores, including a penalty (4:53). Elle Armit pushed the margin to five (8-3) at the 5:43 mark of the third quarter. The Canadians scored two of the next three: Krystina Alogbo (4:43) and Bekhazi (1:59) to make it 9-5.

The Aussies held Canada at bay the rest of the way, thanks in part to four scores by Arancini down the stretch (5:59, 3:29, 2:33 and 1:11). Webster tacked on her sixth goal of the day to put the cherry on top of the victory (0:04).

“It’s always a great feeling to be a winner of the match,” Webster said. “Canada is a good team, but I think today we had a better teamwork. It’s especially good, because we were very disappointed yesterday about the sensitive loss to Russia. We have one game left in the competition in Budapest, and it won’t be easy to play against Hungary at their home.

“At the beginning of this tournament we hoped for a better result, although we have a new head coach this year, we have to get used to the new system he is keeping to. Our main goal is to earn the best place we can at the coming FINA World Championships in Korea, of course, with an eye on 2020 Olympics. We see this tournament as the first step in the long process of qualification for Tokyo.”

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