WPWL Women’s Intercontinental Tourn., Day 1: World’s best teams succeed on opening

World League

Auckland1There was plenty of action on the opening day of the FINA Women’s Water Polo Intercontinental Tournament at West Wave Aquatic Centre in Auckland (NZL). All teams looked unsettled to start with, bringing youngsters and inexperienced players alike, looking for more settled teams as the week progresses.

In Group A, reigning World League, Olympic and world champion USA turned tied first and second quarters against Brazil into an 8-3 third-break margin before closing at 9-4. And the more experienced Canada put away host New Zealand 15-7.

In Group B, Australia consistently had the mettle of Japan, bringing home a 17-6 victory, using strong centre-forward tactics against the speedy Japanese. China beat Kazakhstan 13-6 in what was new territory for young players of both teams. Both teams promise much from this tournament.

Points after day one:
Group A: USA 3, CAN 3, BRA 0, NZL 0.
Group B: AUS 3, CHN 3, JPN 0, KAZ 0.


Match 1: 14:30, Group B, JAPAN 6 AUSTRALIA 17

Quarters: 1-3, 2-5, 2-4, 1-5

Referees: Fabio Toffoli (BRA), Steven Rotsart (USA).
Extra Man: JPN: 2/7. AUS: 4/10
Pens: AUS: 0/1.

JAPAN: Rikako Miura, Chiaki Sakanoue, Yuri Kazama (2), Shino Magariyama, Moe Nakata, Ayaka Takahashi, Yumi Nakano (1), Mitsuki Hashiguchi (1), Kana Hosoya, Tsubasa Mori, Midori Sugiyama (1), Kotari Suzuki (1), Yoko Umeda. Head Coach: Keiji Oi.
AUSTRALIA: Lea Yanitsas, Gemma Beadsworth (3), Hannah Buckling (3), Holly Lincoln-Smith (2), Isobel Bishop (1), Bronte Colenso (1), Rowena Webster (3), Ellodie Ruffin, Zoe Arancini (2), Bronte Halligan, Keesja Gofers, Nicola Zagame (2), Lillian Hedges. Head Coach: Greg McFadden.

Match Report:
Australia used stronger centre-forward tactics against a plucky Japan for a comfortable victory. Both teams have a handful of new combinations with Japan sporting a new head coach. While the Aussie Stingers controlled their attack, heavily using powerful centre forwards Gemma Beadsworth, Rowie Webster and Holly Lincoln-Smith, Japan had to rely on counter attack and short drives to create opportunities. This was done with excellent success. Australia started quickly for 2-0 but could not score again until late in the first period. The rhythm came in the second period with Japan maintaining a threat and gaining a lot of loose ball after tight defence. The zippy nature of the Japanese proved efficient while Australian combinations looked good with good conversion rates. Yuki Kazama scored twice for Japan, the second on counter.

JPN vs AUS - Photo credit: Russell McKinnon

Flash quotes:
Greg McFadden (AUS) — Head Coach
“First game against a difficult team as the Japanese are very mobile and an unconventional team to play. We are not used to playing together, but overall I am pretty happy.”

Rowie Webster (AUS) — Captain

“We had a good result in the end. We planned to come out strong on defence and didn’t do as well in that respect. We haven’t played together much at all so it was a confidence booster.”

Hideo Katoh (JPN) — Head Coach
“Well, we lost. I was very glad for the young players. They played very actively and this will lead to future success.”

Tsubasa Mori (JPN) — Captain
“We have a new coach and new players. We tried to play to our game plan but we did not play as planned. We could have scored more goals as we were able to create plenty of opportunities on counter and set plays.”
Match 2: 16:00, Group A, BRAZIL 4 UNITED STATES OF AMERICA 9
Quarters: 1-1, 2-2, 0-5, 1-1

Referees: Cory Williams (NZL), Marie-Claude Deslieres (CAN).
Extra Man: BRA: 3/6. USA: 2/10
Pens: USA: 0/1

BRAZIL: Tess Oliveira, Diana Abla, Marina Zablith (1), Marina Canetti, Lucianne Baroncass, Amanda Oliviera, Luiza Carvalho, Melanie Dias (3), Flavia Fernandes, Mirella Coutinho, Mariana Duarte, Manuela Canetti. Head Coach: Patrick Oaten.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Carlee Kapana, Colleen O’Donnell (1), Melissa Seidemann (2), Makenzie Fischer (2), Caroline Clark, Madeline Musselman (1), Courtney Mathewson (2), Aria Fischer, Madison Berggren, Kaleigh Gilchrist, Paige Hauschild, Kameryn Craig (1), Elizabeth Armstrong. Head Coach: Adam Krikorian.

Match report:
The first half had the crowd alight with a 3-3 scoreline following 1-1 at the end of the first. Brazil threw everything into the match and came up with three goals to Melanie Dias, two on extra-man attack. USA struggled in that half and scored its goals from extra, counter and from the top. The third period was telling for both teams with USA lifting a notch, but Brazil was determined to move the ball and create chances, only to see USA defence and proving devastating, earning a 5-0 quarter. However, USA struggled on extra-man attack, converting just two from 10 attempts. Canadian Pat Oaten, in charge of the Brazilians in the lead-up to Rio 2016, was relatively calm as his team was trying so hard. That effort was rewarded with a fourth goal and only two USA strikes in the final quarter. Brazilian star Izabella Chiappini was absent in the United States on college duty and will join the team tomorrow.

BRA vs USA - Photo credit: Russell McKinnon

Flash quotes:
Adam Krikorian (USA) — Head Coach

“It was a shaky start, a lot of nervous young girls and their first official game in nine months. We responded in the third quarter. The focus is on how we play and we need to play to the best of our capabilities, which we didn’t do in the first half. It’s how we respond that can decide the outcome of the game.”

Kaleigh Gilchrist (USA)
“We’re happy with the win. It was good to get over our nerves. There was a lot of over-anxious play to begin with. Brazil is a good team so it was an unknown. It was the first time we had come together and we aim to get better and stronger and play our best when it counts.”

Pat Oaten (CAN) — Brazilian Head Coach
“I think we lost a little bit of form at the start of the third quarter and we lost some players through ejections. Overall I was satisfied. We have to build every game, through the summer, toward Rio (2016). I’m proud of my team.”

Melanie Dias (BRA) — Three goals
“Today my team went up a grade. We were focused and I think we are growing as team. We have to play more games like that” On scoring three goals, she said: “I think I did my best. I believe in my shooting ability, but I think the United States left me to shoot.”

Match 3: 17:30, Group A, CHINA 13 KAZAKHSTAN 6
Quarters: 5-2, 2-1, 2-1, 4-2

Referees: Andrew Carney (AUS), Toshio Fukumoto (JPN).
Extra Man: CHN: 4/9. KAZ: 2/9
Pens: CHN: 1/2

CHINA: Jun Yang, Jianing Tian (3), Zhujia Wang, Xiao Chen, Guannan Niu (3), Xiohan Mei, Donglun Song (2), Cong Zhang, Zihan Zhao (3), Dunhan Xiong (1), Xinyan Wang, Jing Zhang (1), Lin Peng. Head Coach: Rick Azevedo.
KAZAKHSTAN: Alexandra Zharkimbayeva, Aruzhan Yegemberdiyeva, Aizhan Akilbayeva (1), Anna Turova (2), Kamila Zakirova (1), Irina Svinarenko, Zamira Myrzabekova (2), Oxana Saichuk, Darya Muravyeva, Darya Roga, Anastassiya Mirshina, Assem Mussarova, Darya Ryzhinskaya. Head Coach: Miroslav Trumbic.

Match Report:
China was never in doubt of winning, but plenty of effort was required to take out the match. There was effort aplenty in the first quarter with the 3-0 lead coming after five minutes with a blocked penalty attempt by Zihan Zhao making it even harder. The margin increased to 6-2 and it was not until 2:02 remaining in the half that Kazakhstan kept its hopes alive with a Zamira Myrzabekova score from centre forward off a cross-pass. Jianing Tian scored her second off the near post on extra for a 7-3 Chinese lead at the halftime break. Zhao netted her second, this time on penalty for 8-3 but Turova responded before Guannan Niu’s counter-attack strike closed the third period at 9-4. Kazakhstan was playing well while China just needed to tidy up some of its attack. This was shown so well at the top of the fourth when Zhao whipped away a fast shot off a pass from the top. Tian’s third goal came from a snap backhand at centre forward. She was relishing the position in the absence of Yating Sun, who is playing in Russia. All in all, it was a shakedown match for both teams.

CHN vs KAZ - Photo credit: Russell McKinnon

Flash quotes:
Rick Azevedo (USA) — China Head Coach
“It was the first game and I gave everyone some playing time. We’re so used to training in Europe where we are used to heavy play. There were a lot of fouls but we have to adjust our game. That’s the trend, then we go to that trend. The first half was good, but in the second we lost concentration. The newer players have to learn not to rely on the veterans too much or look for that extra pass. It was a good start to the tournament.”

Jun Yang (CHN) — Captain
“We did not play too well, especially on defence. We have to listen to the coach. We made mistakes. I think it was the first-game (nerves). We will play better and better. Mentally we have to concentrate. The younger players need to feel what it is like to play international games.”

Miroslav Trumbic — Kazakhstan Head Coach

“There’s a big difference between the two teams and my team was physically weaker. Perhaps it was jet-lag. The Chinese are obviously a lot better, but I thought we could have converted a few more goals.”

Kamila Zakirova (KAZ)
“It was really hard against China’s press defence.”

Match 4: 19:30, Group B, NEW ZEALAND 7 CANADA 15
Quarters: 1-2, 0-5, 3-4, 3-4

Referees:  Svetlana Dreval (RUS), Diana Dutilh-Dumas (NED).
Extra Man: NZL: 2/11. CAN: 3/7
Pens: CAN: 1/1

NEW ZEALAND: Brooke Millar, Nicole Lewis, Kelly Mason, Hannah Klein, Simone Lewis, Sarah Landry (3), Miranda Chase, Ricci Ferigo, Emma Stoneman, Liana Dance (1), Kirsten Hudson, Jasmine Myles (3), Katherine Curnow. Head Coach: Attila Biro.
CANADA: Jessica Gaudreault, Krystina Alogbo, Katrina Monton (1), Emma Wright (3), Monika Eggens (3), Jacqueline Kohli, Joelle Bekhazi (1), Shae Fournier (2), Carmen Eggens (2), Christine Robinson, Stephanie Valin (1), Dominique Perrault (2), Claire Wright. Head Coach: Johanne Begin.

Match report:
Under the direction of debut coach Johanne Begin, a year out of playing professional water polo in Italy, Canada proved too strong for host New Zealand. It took a quarter for Canada to get on to a roll. But then closed out the Kiwis for more than 18 minutes. By then the score had risen to 10-2 midway through the third period. To New Zealand’s credit, the new-look team tried hard and the third goal came straight after the second and it was Sarah Landry with a triple. She nearly scored a fourth early in the fourth quarter but her crossbar shot spun on the line. Joelle Bekhazi scored in the second quarter to celebrate her 28th birthday from the day before and the Eggens sisters, Monika and Carmen, made sure they made their mark. Emma Wright, who impressed so much as a 16 year old in the Barcelona FINA World Championships in 2013, scored twice and looks every bit a future champion. Liana Dance, at just 17, gained international water polo experience for the first time and scored a counter-attack goal at 1:33 for 14-6. Team-mate Jasmine Myles chimed in with two late goals to go with the late extra-man score in the third for the home team and it was a respectable 15-7. For Coach Begin, it was an excellent transition from water to pool deck.

NZL vs CAN - Photo credit: Russell McKinnon

Flash quotes:
Johanne Begin (CAN) — Head Coach
On the difference between playing and coaching: “It was much harder than playing. It’s a lot of work; very different. You can’t execute, just guide. I’m happy and not happy. We’d like to win it our way. The girls were a little nervous and the problem in the first half was offence and in the second defence — both ends of the pool.”

Joelle Bekhazi (CAN)

“It was a rough start, but then we picked it up and took control. It’s a new team and new coach. We made it happen.”

Attila Biro (NZL) — Head Coach
“We tried to reach their level in the first test after 1.5 years. It’s not too bad. Not happy but the game was OK and hopefully we will get better and better.”

Kelly Mason (NZL) — Captain
“I thought it went really well. We started strong and the girls were really excited. We could still use a little bit of refining but feeling really confident given time for Worlds.”