By Aimee Berg, FINA Correspondent
(DAVIS, California) – For the second night in a row, team USA won the hard way. On Friday against Canada, Melissa Seidemann shot the game-winning goal in the very last second. On Saturday against Australia, it rallied from a 4-2 deficit entering the fourth quarter, tied at 4-4, trailed 5-4, and tied again when Paige Hauschild nailed a shot with 1:29 to go and forced a penalty shootout. Thea Walsh, the 16-year-old American goalie, blocked the very first shot (taken by Isobel Bishop) and when Aussie shooter Hannah Buckling missed the fourth penalty shot, the U.S. emerged undefeated in pool play on Day 5 of the FINA Women’s Intercontinental Tournament at the University of California-Davis.
Earlier on Day 5, in a high-stakes game to determine who would play for the bronze medal and who would fail to qualify for the FINA World League Super Final, Canada beat Kazakhstan, 8-3.
Also on Saturday, Japan beat China, 11-6, to hand China its fifth loss in five days.
The standings after round robin are: USA (5-0), Australia (4-1), Japan (3-2), Canada (2-3), Kazakhstan (1-4), China (0-5).
As a result, the Sunday’s playoff pairings are as follows: U.S. and Australia will play for gold; Japan and Canada will play for bronze; Kazakhstan and China will vie for fifth place.GAME 1: 16:30 CHINA 6 JAPAN 11
Quarters: 1-2, 1-4, 3-3, 1-2.
Referees: Andrew Carney (AUS), Martin Murray (CAN)
Extra Man: CHN 0/4. JPN 4/10.
Pens: CHN 2/2. JPN 1/2.
CHINA: Peng Lin, Xiong Dunhan (1), Tian Jianing, Pan Li, Zhai Ying, Deng Zewen (1), Guo Ning, Deng Yu (2), Nong Sanpeng, Ma Huanhuan (2), Wang Dujuan, Li Chenying, Xie Yuting, Head Coach: Lin Jun.
JAPAN: Miyuu Aoki, Yumi Arima (3), Haruna Nonomura, Shino Magariyama (1), Chiaki Sakanoue (2), Miku Koida, Akari Inada (1), Mimori Yamamoto (1), Kana Hosoya (1), Misaki Noro (2), Marina Tokumoto, Kotori Suzuki, Yuka Kamatashiro, Head Coach: Hideo Kato.
Even before the first whistle, Japan was guaranteed a berth in Sunday’s bronze-medal match based on its win-loss record after four games. In contrast, China was seeking its first victory of the tournament. Hope faded quickly.
Japan scored first and never let China take the lead, although a penalty shot by China’s Deng Zewen tied it at 1-all in the first quarter. The tie only lasted 101 seconds, however, and by halftime, six different players had contributed to Japan’s 6-2 lead.
The third quarter was marked by a pair of spectacular early saves: China’s goalie Xie Yuting blocked a penalty shot by Kotori Suzuki and, about 15 seconds later, Japan’s goalie Miyuu Aoki made an amazing save of her own after Wang Dujuan made a huge breakaway and tried to slam the ball into the net. Eventually, each team added three goals in that quarter, and while Japan had a 9-5 lead, it could have been worse if Xie of China hadn’t made 13 saves. The fourth quarter began with Yumi Arima’s third goal of the day, followed by Ma Huanhuan’s penalty shot for China, and punctuated by a late power play goal by Nisaki Noro to seal Japan’s victory: 11-6.
China captain Ma Huanhuan (2 goals):
Q: Last year China placed third. This year it’s 0-5. What changed?
“Many old players are out. Now is many new players coming, so we want to train them. So for us the score is not important. The important thing is the performance.”
China goalie Xie Yuting (16 saves):
“I’m 17. I’ve only played water polo just three years. Before that, no other sports. This is my third international tournament at the senior level. I’m in ninth grade.”
Japan Head Coach Hideo Kato:
Q: Japan was already guaranteed place in bronze game so what were you trying to achieve today?
“We have to still try to refine our pass-line difference [which means we try to cut off the pass in front of the players – which is risky]. Yesterday in the last moment, we lost our concentration and Australia was able to pass and take shots. Therefore, today we tried to do that in a much better way. I thought Chiaki Sakanoue (No. 5) played very well offensively and, at center defense Shino Magariyama (No. 4) and Marina Tokumoto (No. 11), shut out the Chinese center forward very well.”GAME 2: 17:50, KAZAKHSTAN 3 CANADA 8
Quarters: 1-4, 2-1, 0-1, 0-2
Referees: Haz Ortega (USA), Steven Rotsart (USA)
Extra Man: KAZ 1/9. CAN 1/1.
KAZAKHSTAN: Alexandra Zharkinbaeva, Anastassia Yeremina, Aizhan Akilbaeva, Anna Turova (1), Kamila Zakizova (1), Anna Novikova (1), Darya Roga, Oxana Saichuk, Sivilya Raiter, Darya Muravyeva, Anastassia Mirshina, Assem Mussarova, Aigerim Abildaeva, Head Coach: Andrey Sazukin.
CANADA: Jessica Gaudreault, Kelly McKee (3), Axelle Crevier, Elyse Lemay (2), Chayma Hlanadif, Michelle Caron, Joelle Bekhazi, Shae Fournier (1), Gurpreet Sohi (1), Dominique Perreault (1), Verica Bakoc, Marina Radu, Clara Vulpisi, Head Coach: David Paradelo.
Both teams had identical win/loss records going into Saturday’s matches (1-3), so a victory would ensure a berth in the bronze-medal game against Japan on Sunday, as well as an automatic spot in the FINA World League Super Final in June.
Canada raced to a 3-0 lead, then traded goals with Kazakhstan to enter the second quarter leading 4-1. In the second quarter, Kazakhstan outshot Canada 7 to 4 and finally converted one of its four power plays when Anna Turova scored to make it 4-2 with 5:39 remaining before halftime. Canada responded 27 seconds later with a goal by Elyse Lemay, and Kamila Zakizova closed out the first-half scoring for Kazakhstan but Canada led 5-3 at the midpoint.
In the third quarter, neither team scored till 1:05 to go, when Canada’s Kelly McKee blasted in a shot to claim her third goal of the day. In the fourth quarter, Canada added two more goals to win, 8-3, but in the end, perhaps the most revealing statistic was that Kazakhstan only capitalized on one of its 9 power plays.
Kazakhstan goalie Alexandra Zharkinbaeva (9 saves):
“I was a little bit nervous. That was our last chance to be in the Super Final. We tried all we can, what we could do. We will work on our mistakes.”
Canada player Michelle Caron:
Q: How was Canada able to limit so many of Kazakhstan’s power play opportunities?
“I think we really focused on getting our blocks up quick to avoid that fast shot. I think also we were good at stepping up towards them to put pressure on the shooters.”
Q: Any pressure because it was the decisive game to get into the top 4 and qualify for the Super Final? “We just talked about doing what we needed to do, and that’s winning. I think we went in confident and ready to play our best game at our style of play.”GAME 3: 19:10, AUSTRALIA 7 UNITED STATES 9 in penalty shootout (FT: 5-5. Pens 2-4)
Quarters: 1-1, 2-0, 1-1, 1-3. Pens: 2-4
Referees: Victor Salnicenko (KAZ),Tadao Tahara (JPN)
Extra Man: AUS 1/2. USA 1/2.
AUSTRALIA: Lilian Hedges, Keesja Gofers (1), Hannah Buckling, Elle Armit (1), Isobel Bishop, Amy Ridge, Rowie Webster (5), Bridget Leeson-Smith, Dayna O’Leary, Tiana Sogaard Anderson, Ashleigh Roberts, Alice Williams, Gabriella Palm, Head Coach: Sakis Kechagias.
UNITED STATES: Thea Walsh, Ava Johnson, Melissa Seidemann (1), Alexandra Thomason, Sarah Klass, Bayley Weber (1), Alexis Liebowitz (1), Ryann Neushul (1), Aria Fischer (1), Jewel Roemer (1), Abrielle Hill (1), Paige Hauschild (2), Georgia Phillips, Head Coach: Adam Krikorian.
In a highly-anticipated match between the US and Australia, the two previously-undefeated teams had an uncharacteristically low-scoring first quarter. Sixteen-year-old Bayley Weber put up the first goal for the U.S. on a power play, but Australia’s captain Rowie Webster tied the game at 1-1 with three seconds to go. The second quarter was all Webster, as she completed a hat trick with a backhanded goal, and another goal from the perimeter just 75 seconds later. Australia led, 3-1, at halftime.
In the third quarter, Webster put a savvy lob past the U.S. goalie Thea Walsh on a counterattack. About five minutes later, Melissa Seidemann turned and fired a ball through traffic into the goal for the U.S. to reduce the deficit, 4-2. In the fourth quarter, the American Abrielle Hill made it a 4-3 game with her long-range putaway past goalie Gabrielle Palm. Less than a minute later, 18-year-old Olympic gold medalist Aria Fischer brought the U.S. to a 4-4 tie. But Elle Armit put Australia ahead with a slam dunk into the U.S. net with 4:23 left to play. Then, with 1:29 remaining in the game, Paige Hauschild tied the score 5-5. With the crowd on edge, the U.S’ Sarah Klass nearly pulled off a “Seidemann” by taking a hard shot 2 seconds before the buzzer, but Australian goalie (Palm) saved it (seemingly with her face), to force a shootout – the first one of the tournament.
Goalies Palm and Walsh stayed in the net. It was pin-drop silent as Isobel Bishop took the first shot for Australia – until 16-year-old Walsh made the save. The next five players all made their shots: Alexis Liebowitz (USA), Rowie Webster (AUS), Paige Hauschild (USA), Keesja Gofers (AUS), and Jewel Roemer (USA) – but a miss by Hannah Buckling (AUS) and a goal by Ryann Neushul (USA) gave the home team a 9-7 win.
Australia captain Rowie Webster (4 goals in regulation + 1 in shootout):
“It was a really low-scoring game. Both teams were struggling to draw an exclusion but like every time we play the U.S., it’s a challenge and they had a great last quarter so we’ll learn from it. We’ve got another rematch tomorrow. It’s pretty exciting, great crowd, but disappointing to lose when we were two goals in front going into the fourth period.”
United States Head Coach Adam Krikorian:
Q: How did you decide to use goalie Thea Walsh in the shootout?
“I wanted to give each goalie three games so they’ve been alternating. No rhyme or reason other than that.”
Q: Any thoughts about the penalty shootout?
“I’m really proud of our young players for having the courage to step up and take penalty shots. It’s a stressful thing to do and they showed a tremendous amount of courage.”
United States goalie Thea Walsh (1 save in shootout):
“It was so fun! I love shootouts so much! It’s my first senior international tournament."
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