Olympic Games Women

 

Women's Olympic Teams

Group A   Group B
     
HungaryHungary (HUN)   ItalyItaly (ITA)
ESP Spain (ESP)   GBR Great Britain (GBR)
ChinaChina (CHN)   RussiaRussia (RUS)
USAUSA (USA)   AustraliaAustralia (AUS)

    *Prelimenary round: win is 2 pts; tie 1 pt; and loss 0 pts
    Other rounds: natural win 3 pts; shoot-out win 2 pts; shoot-out loss 1 pt; natural loss 0 pts

**NOTE: Game Times were changed on July 1. Games are in order of time scheduled NOT IN ORDER of game number

Current London Time

Monday, July 30

14:10 Game #2 ESP ESP 11 vs CHN CHN 6 Scoresheet and Play by Play

Greg Eggert, FINA Press Commission Member: Olympic qualification tournament winner Spain upset world number 2 China by a surprising 11-6 margin in the opening Group A preliminary match of the women's competition at the Water Polo Arena on Monday.

It was only two minutes into the second quarter when Spain took control and started to swim away from the Chinese. China earned a silver medal at the 2011 FINA World Championships in Shanghai. That margin went to 4-2 before China struck back to even the score at 4-4. From that point on the Spanish armada took over, going ahead 6-4 at half time and then 10-6 at the final break.

The stunned Chinese, who were late leaving the pool deck after the match were kept scoreless. The Spanish team, less experienced and slightly younger pressed home their advantage with Anni Espar (ESP) attaining her hat-trick of goals in the only score of the fourth quarter.

Spain spread the goals around and their smothering defence upset the rhythm of the Chinese team. The 2011 silver medallists were outclassed by the skills of the Spanish. In the critical extra-man advantage situations China missed five of eight attempts while Spain netted three goals from four opportunities. Spain's star performers were centre back Marta Bach for her deft play before drawing her third and final major foul late in the third period, and goalkeeper Laura Ester.

China's Ma Huanhuan, the most valuable player from the 2011 FINA World Championship was the team's top scorer netting three goals. Yang Jun (CHN) who was named the best goalkeeper of the 2010 FINA World Cup was far from her best form in today's match and was replaced in the fourth quarter.

Jennifer Pareja (ESP) explained her team's work ethic and the vulnerability of the Chinese. "We've been practicing everything but today was particularly easy to score from 5 metres because of China's defence style." Spain's coach Miguel Oca spoke after the game: "It wasn't easy. We had a very good game but this match does not reflect the real situation with the Chinese team. We have a very young team and these are our first Olympic Games. We have to put our feet on the ground and we need to relax for our next game against the USA."

Chinese coach Juan Jane offered his assessment: "We started well but in the middle of the game we offered them big bonuses by committing two or three huge defensive mistakes. It broke our game. We didn't perform well in some positions and our goal keeping was bad." Tang Fei (CHN) agreed: "Something was wrong with our defence, it wasn't strong enough. In the next couple of days we will correct our mistakes and change our strategies."

A pleasant reunion after today's match between the two team coaches. Spanish coach Oca was a gold medallist at the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games playing under coach Juan Jane (ESP). Jane is the Chinese coach at the 2012 London Olympic Games.

Referees: BALFANBAYEV Alan (KAZ) WILLIAMS Cory (NZL)
Delegate:FIROIU Niculae (GER) SHAW Bill (CAN)

15:30 Game #3 ITA ITA 8 vs AUS AUS 10 Scoresheet and Play by Play

Australia stings Italy in Group B opener

Greg Eggert, FINA Press Commission Member: Australia captain Kate Gynther left her 2012 FINA World League Silver medallist teammates to a 10-8 victory over Italy, the European champions in the opening Group B match.

Three-time Olympian Kate Gynther scored three goals including a spectacular drag down shot from two metres in the third period. Australia raced to a 2-0 lead before Italy responded to stay within one goal at the end of the first quarter, 2-1. Two goals from Nicola Zagame (AUS) helped put Australia up 4-1.

Italy responded with one goal each from Federica Radicchi (ITA) and another from 2004 Olympic champion Tania Di Mario to tie the game at 4's at halftime. The outcome of the match was decided in the third period as Australia kept Italy scoreless while advancing the margin to 8-4.

Italy came back strong in the final quarter netting 4 goals to Australia's two. The 2004 gold medallist Di Mario (ITA) scored twice in the final period. Aniko Pelle (ITA), who switched allegiance from Hungary earlier this year, scored Italy's and the game's final goal four minutes before the final horn.

Referees: ROSTART Steven (USA) JUHASZ Gyorgy (HUN)
Delegate: KRYUKOV Andrey (KAZ) IBERN Lolo (ESP)

18:20 Game #1 GBR GBR 6 vs RUS RUS 7 Scoresheet and Play by Play

Russia's experience trumps Great Britain's first appearance in Olympic women's water polo

Greg Eggert, FINA Press Commission Member: Russia, the only European team to play in all four women's Olympic water polo competitions, beat the newcomers from Great Britain by one goal in today's Group B match. A huge home crowd urged the British team to play on against their more experienced opponent, but they fell short losing 6-7.

Francesca Painter-Snell (GBR) opened the scoring early in the first quarter by firing in a penalty to the goalkeeper's right. Russia responded quickly and soon they took the lead. Great Britain levelled the game at 4's with 4:33 remaining in the second quarter. Each team scored once more to make it 5-5 at half time.

Angie Winstaley-Smith (GBR) scored her third goal to level the score at 6-6 early in the fourth quarter. Russia's experience and the intensity of their defence left the Brit's shooting wide or directly into the clutches of their opponents goalkeeper. Ekaterina Prokofyeva (RUS) and veteran Olga Beliaeva (RUS) each scored two goals.

A win for the home team proved to be just out of reach. Instead the luck went with Russia's way as the winning goal was dealt by Evgeniya Ivanova (RUS), a sharp shooter at the 2011 FINA World Championships in Shanghai. Ivanova won possession on a counter attach when it appeared the ball was in the air as the referee blew the whistle. This confused the defence and spectators alike.

Each team's extra man attacks were in polished form: Russia netted three of four attempts and Great Britain successfully converted on two of three extra man possessions. One troubling statistic for the Olympic newcomers were shots on goal: Great Britain had 33 compared to the more efficient Russian team who took 11 fewer shots.

Asked about the narrow victory Russian coach Alexander Kabanov replied: "Everything can happen in sport but I wasn't afraid. I was sure that we would win. We expected this game to be difficult, but we didn't use our full capacity. I have eight first time Olympians on this team and they were affected, certainly."

Rosie Morris, (GBR) expressed her disappointment. "I'm a bit gutted to be honest, to have come so close. It's hard but we have the positives which we can take from the game. It's incredible, the crowd was so noisy, they were great, every time they cheer it spurs you on".

Referees: DESLIERES Marie (CAN) NI Shiwei (CHN)
Delegate: BADREDDINE Boukezouha (ALG) DR MARTIN Gyorgy (HUN)

19:40 Game #4 HUN HUN 13 vsUSAUSA 14 Scoresheet and Play by Play

USA's Steffens sets Olympic record in victory over Hungary

Greg Eggert, FINA Press Commission Member: Maggie Steffens (USA) tied an Olympic Games record with seven goals as the USA outlasted Hungary, 14-13, in their Group A match. Courtney Mathewson (USA) added four goals and Betsey Armstrong (USA) went the distance in net, stopping six shots in the victory. The USA never trailed in the high scoring affair but the match was tied on four occasions.

Steffens started her scoring barrage almost immediately as she punched in a counter attack goal some 30 seconds into the match for a 1-0 lead. Hungary answered on their next possession to even the score at 1-1. A few minutes later USA created some temporary breathing room when Steffens scored consecutive goals to grab a 3-1 advantage with 2:56 left. The USA defence stepped up moments later as Armstrong denied a penalty shot try by Hungary.

The euphoria for the US team was short lived with Hungary finding the cage seconds later to make it a 3-2 match. Less than twenty seconds after that goal, it was Mathewson (USA) hitting on a power play try and the United States went up 4-2. Hungary would have the last word in the period, scoring on a counter attack goal with just eight seconds to play, drawing to within 4-3 after the first.

Team USA went back in front by a pair when Kelly Rulon (USA) got behind the defence for a score and a 5-3 match. Hungary responded with two straight goals in the next 90 seconds evening the game once more, this time at 5-5. A minute later it was Steffens again, this time on a power play, pushing the USA in front, 6-5. Then there was more Steffens, on a penalty shot drawn by Rulon, putting the United States ahead 7-5 with 3:33 to play. Hungary showed their resiliency once more, answering with two straight scores to knot the match at 7-7 with 1:48 to play. Steffens answered last in the period hitting on a power play goal with 1:18 to go in the half, her sixth tally giving the USA an 8-7 lead at halftime.

Hungary wasted little time tying the match in the third, finding the cage early in the period to make the score 8-8. The United States answered with two straight goals, the first from Kami Craig (USA) on a power play in front of the cage, and the second on a skipshot from Steffens. Trailing 10-8, the Hungarians started to chip away with a power play score at the 3:41 mark of the period, closing to within 10-9. Team USA looked to squash the Hungarian rally with a goal late in the third by Brenda Villa (USA) and early in the fourth by Mathewson, to take a 12-9 lead, their biggest advantage of the match.

The contest was far from over as Hungary scored two straight goals closing to within 12-11 with 6:16 to play. Two minutes later, Mathewson completed the hat trick with her third goal, on a power play, giving the United States a 13-11 lead. Hungary responded with a power play score of their own with 2:18 left, but the USA turned back to Mathewson who connected from distance for a 14-12 lead. Hungary mounted one final charge getting a backhand from Barbara Bujka, her fourth goal of the match, to close within one at 14-13 with less than a minute to play. Future attempts by Hungary would be foiled by the United States and Team USA hung on for the one goal victory. Barbara Bujka (HUN) and Dora Antal (HUN) each scored three goals for the Hungarian squad. Both teams had commendable extra man attacks with the USA netting six from eight and Hungary converting on four of their six attempts.

The US victory over Hungary marked the sixth consecutive defeat of the Hungarian squad in 2012. Andras Meresz the Hungarian coach offered his perspective: "For those who guess this would be another massacre, we showed the real face of our team. The goals scored from distance are fine proof that our team is physically and mentally prepared. Netting a goal from seven or eight meters requires strength and braveness." Rita Dravucz (HUN) was reflective: "I feel good and I'm not too disappointed with the result. I think we should improve on our six-on-five play. I think there was a lack of concentration in our game. We should play better and make less faults in the forthcoming games."

USA's Maggie Steffens' seven goals equalled the output by Danielle de Bruijn (NED) in the Gold Medal match at the 2008 Olympic Games, ironically against the USA team which lost the game but earned a silver medal. Steffen's seven goals are also a record for an Olympic debut. Steffens was asked about equalling the record for the most individual goals scored in a match: "I had no idea that they kept records like that. I was just thinking about what the next play was. That's very much the USA mind set. It's not about the goals, it's about the games you win and that's what takes you through, hopefully to the very end."

Maggie Steffens (USA) offered her thoughts about scoring 7 of the USA's 14 goals. "It's not easy at all. I wanted the ball in the net. It's go, go, go, and you try to practice for this, but nothing compares to the feeling of adrenaline. The first game is always rough and it was great to play an aggressive fast team like Hungary and get everything out there and get through the nerves. It was really fun to get out there and finally play. We've been waiting a week and it's good to get over the jitters." Steffens is the younger sister of Beijing silver medallist Jessica Steffens (USA), also competing for the USA.

Referees: LITTLEJOHN Brian (GBR) DANELON Denis (BRA)
Delegate: FARID Mohie (EGY) SHARONOV Evgeny (RUS)

London, England - July 30 - Maggie Steffens (Danville, CA/Stanford/Diablo) tied an Olympic Games record with seven goals as the U.S. Olympic Women's Water Polo outlasted Hungary, 14-13, to open play at the 2012 Olympic Games. Courtney Mathewson (Anaheim Hills, CA/UCLA/NYAC) added four goals and Betsey Armstrong (Ann Arbor, MI/Michigan/NYAC) went the distance in net, stopping six shots in the victory. Team USA never trailed in the high scoring affair but the match was tied on three occasions. Team USA next meets Spain in Group A play on Tuesday at 6:20pm local time/1:20pm est/10:20am pst. The match will air on NBC live in the east at 1:20pm on and on delay in the west at 12:20pm pst.

Steffens started her scoring barrage almost immediately as she punched in a counter attack goal some thirty seconds into the match for a 1-0 lead. Hungary answered on their next possession to even the score at 1-1. A few minutes later Team USA created some temporary breathing room when Steffens scored consecutive goals to grab a 3-1 advantage with 2:56 left. The USA defense stepped up moments later as Armstrong denied a penalty shot try by Hungary. The euphoria was short lived with Hungary finding the cage seconds later to make it a 3-2 match. Less than twenty seconds after that score, it was Mathewson hitting on a power play try and the United States went up 4-2. Hungary would have the last word in the period, scoring on a counter attack goal with just eight seconds to play, drawing to within 4-3 after the first.

Team USA went back in front by a pair when Kelly Rulon (San Diego, CA/UCLA/NYAC) got behind the defense for a score and a 5-3 match. Hungary responded with two straight goals in the next ninety seconds evening the game once more, this time at 5-5. A minute later it was Steffens again, this time on a power play, pushing the United States back in front, 6-5. Then there was more Steffens, on a penalty shot drawn by Rulon, putting the United States ahead 7-5 with 3:33 to play. Hungary showed their resiliency once more, answering with two straight scores to knot the match at 7-7 with 1:48 to play. Steffens answered last in the period hitting on a power play goal with 1:18 to go in the half, her sixth tally giving Team USA an 8-7 lead at halftime.

Hungary wasted little time tying the match in the third, finding the cage early in the period to make the score 8-8. The United States answered with two straight goals, the first from Kami Craig (Santa Barbara, CA/USC/Santa Barbara WPF) on a power play in front of the cage, and the second on a skipshot from Steffens. Trailing 10-8, the Hungarians started to chip away with a power play score at the 3:41 mark of the period, closing to within 10-9. Team USA looked to squash the Hungarian rally with a goal late in the third by Brenda Villa (Commerce, CA/Stanford/Olympic Club) and early in the fourth by Mathewson, to take a 12-9 lead, their biggest advantage of the match.

The contest was far from over as Hungary scored two straight goals closing to within 12-11 with 6:16 to play. Two minutes later Mathewson completed the hat trick with her third goal, on a power play, giving the United States a 13-11 lead. Hungary responded with a power play score of their own with 2:18 left, but the USA turned back to Mathewson who connected from distance for a 14-12 lead. Hungary mounted one final charge getting a backhand from Barbara Bujka, her fourth goal of the match, to close within one at 14-13 with less than a minute to play. Future attempts by Hungary would be foiled by the United States and Team USA hung on for the one goal victory.

Notes: USA went 6/11 on power plays and 1/1 on penalty shots while Hungary was 4/10 on power plays and 0/1 on penalties. Maggie Steffens' seven goals equaled the output by Danielle de Bruijn (NED) in the Gold Medal match of the 2008 Olympic Games. The seven goals are also a record for an Olympic debut. The victory over Hungary marked the sixth consecutive win over the Hungarians in 2012. The two teams met at the test event in London in May and then in a four game series in California earlier this month. Team USA also defeated Hungary, 7-6, to open play at the 2004 Olympic Games.

USA 14 (4, 4, 3, 3) M. Steffens 7, C. Mathewson 4, B. Villa 1, K. Craig 1, K. Rulon 1
HUN 13 (3, 4, 2, 4) B. Bujka 4, D. Antal 3, G. Szucs 2, O. Takacs 1, R. Dravucz 1, I. Toth 1, D. Csabai 1

Saves - USA- B. Armstrong 6 - HUN - F. Bolonyai 4
6x5 - USA - 6/11 - HUN - 4/10
Penalties - USA - 1/1 - HUN 0/1

FLASH QUOTES

Adam KRIKORIAN (USA) - head coach

On the performance of Maggie STEFFENS (USA), who scored seven goals:

"Not bad. She played great, but a win is never up to a individual. This is not basketball - here you need some help."

On the team's performance:

"We made some bad mistakes, which were down to us being anxious. We need more composure."

Betsey ARMSTRONG (USA)

On the defence:

"There are a lot of different defence methods and there was a lot of scrambling throughout the game, so perhaps we need to be more organised."

On the referee:

"We are both very physical teams and the refs gave a lot of input to the game. It is expected to be tighter at this level."

Maggie STEFFENS (USA)

On scoring seven of the 14 goals:

"It's not easy at all. I wanted the ball in the net. It's go, go, go, and you try to practice for this, but nothing compares to the feeling of adrenaline."

On equalling the record, set by Danielle DE BRUIJN (NED) against the USA at Beijing 2008, for the most individual goals (seven) scored in a match:

"I had no idea that they kept records like that. I was just thinking about what the next play was. That's very much the USA mindset. It's not about the goals, it's about the games you win and that's what takes you through, hopefully to the very end."

On the match:

"The first game is always rough and it was great to play an aggressive fast team like Hungary and get everything out there and get through the nerves."

On the team:

"It's an awesome family - there's a lot of depth and we're all friends. Water Polo is all about setting up. It's important to see the whole game, not one player. It's totally a team sport."

On making her Olympic debut:

"It was really fun to get out there and finally play. We've been waiting a week and it's good to get over the jitters."

Greg Mescall
Associate Director of Communications
USA Water Polo

WATER POLO PLANET.COM: the Alternative Voice    www.waterpoloplanet.com

 

Wednesday, August 1

14:10 Game #5 HUN HUN 11 vs CHN CHN 10 Scoresheet and Play by Play

Greg Eggert, FINA Press Commission Member: Hungary came out on top of today's Group A match defeating the #2 world ranked team China in the second day of women's competition at the Water Polo Arena on Wednesday, August 1st.

The world #9 ranked Hungarians were unphased by a 3-1 deficit at the end of the first quarter and at being behind 7-5 at half time. Three goals by Gabriella Szucs in the third period brought Hungary to within one goal at 10-9. Dora Czigany (HUN) levelled the game in an extra-man attack early in the fourth quarter.

Five minutes later, former German player Barbara Bujka gave the huge Hungarian supporter base what they wanted with a sweeping flick over her head from the centre-forward position for the first Hungarian lead of the game with just 1:56 minutes remaining on the clock. China had chances to draw but even after a timeout at 12 seconds left in the game, the Chinese players could not penetrate the strong Hungarian defence.  

Ma Huanhuan, Sun Yating, Sun Yujun and Sun Huizi each scored two goals for China. Ma Huanhuan (CHN) explained how the match was lost: "We missed so many opportunities today. In the last two minutes, when we went behind, we started to worry and that's where we lost the game. We are not happy, but we will never give up. We have a few more matches and we will give it our best." Gao Ao explained her mood after the game: "I am upset we lost, but we played a good match. We let Gabriella Szucs score a few goals, which we should not have done, but in the end it was only one goal that we lost by."

From the winning side, Hungarian head coach provided their team's analysis: "It was a pity that we let China rush away at the beginning since it meant we had to use on of our special defensive formats, something we had wanted to do only in the knockout phase. We learn it from the men's team and it's something new in the women's field, and the Chinese didn't like it at all. We are talking about women who sometimes lack confidence. If today's achievement does not boost all of theirs to the maximum, then I don't know what else would." The Hungarian coach continued: "We heard from the previous Games that our Olympic champion men's team usually play in an atmosphere that feels like their home pool, thanks to hundreds of Hungarian supporters. Now we also enjoy the same backing, and I can tell you that the support coming from the stands today was worth at least one goal. So actually we played to a tie and our fans won us the match."

Hungarian player Edina Gangl (HUN) explained an exercise that she sometimes performs before an important contest. "If there is a huge game and there is an exciting situation, and if the ball deserves a kiss, then I give it one, for sure!  Today it fully deserved one, the ball was with us." IIdiko Toth offered her opinion on how the game was won. "Changing our goalkeeper in the third quarter meant really a lot for us. This game was like playing in a final. Towards the end of the game we had more energy than China."

China converted only five of 13 extra man attempts compared to Hungary's three from seven conversions. It was China's second loss of the tournament after going down to Spain 6-11. Hungary won their first game of the Olympic competition following their loss on Monday to the USA, 13-14.

Referees: STAVRIDIS Georgios (GRE) DREVAL Svetlana (RUS)
Delegate: FARID Mohie (EGY) FIROIU Niculae (GER)

15:30 Game #8 RUS RUS 7 vs ITA ITA 4 Scoresheet and Play by Play

Lisunova and Karnaukh guide Russia to victory over Italy

Greg Eggert, FINA Press Commission Member: Three goals from Ekaterina Lisunova and two penalty saves by goalkeeper Anna Karnaukh ignited a Russian 7-4 victory over Italy, the European Champions in today's Group A match. In a low scoring first half, Russia held a one goal advantage at each break. Russia would score 3 goals to Italy's one during the third period giving Russia a comfortable 6-2 margin.

Italy found themselves down 3-7 with 5:28 remaining, a victim of Russia's superior defence. Tania Di Mario (ITA), an Olympic gold medallist from the 2004 Athens campaign, scored twice in the final quarter. She had a chance for a third goal in the final minute but saw her penalty shot blocked by Russian goalkeeper Karnaukh (RUS). Just two minutes earlier, Karnaukh was magnificent in stopping a shot delivered by Robert Bianconi (ITA).

Neither team excelled in the critically important extra-man advantage. Russia converted only one of five opportunities while Italy could only score once in seven situations. Both teams have one victory each over the first two games and will be hoping for victories in Friday's matches to secure better positions in Group A. Russia will face Australia in their final group match while Italy will match up against the home team from GBR.

Alexander Kabanov, the Russian head coach offered his assessment of their victory today: "The first match is always difficult as there is an anxiety, but now we are getting into the tournament, slowly but surely. Results are not important at the moment. Our style of play is what we are taking care about." Russian player Olga Beliaeva (RUS) said: "Today the team spirit was very good. We helped each other and we were strong and the little group of Russian fans helped us very well. Against Australia we will play better. We were a bit nervous in our first match against Great Britain." Ekaterina Lisunova reported: "Today's result feels great. The game against Great Britain didn't go quite so well, but we are getting into the tournament now and it's going really well. It's not important who we face, all of the teams are strong but we are here to win."

Italy's head coach Fabio Conti explained: "Today we had a good game, good defence and good attack. The only problem was that we missed too many shots including two penalties. It's not usual for Italy, but I am not afraid of anything. The most important thing is to build game, to have a good construction of plays. We had that, missed several shots but that happens sometimes. Next time we will have them."

Italian player Elena Gigli offered: "We didn't do our best. We can do better than this. We understand now how difficult the tournament actually is." Her Italian teammate shared: "We didn't play well, we didn't win. We go out to win every game but our attack didn't work for us. It is how the referees are directing the game. Today there were some calls that were meant to favour us but then they changed their mind. We have to go ahead and win the next game, then we will see who we play in the next round."

Referees: BORRELL SANCHEZ Sergi (ESP) MOLLER German (ARG)
Delegate: DR MARTIN Gyorgy (HUN) SHAW Bill (CAN)


18:20 Game #7 USA USA 9 vs ESP ESP 9 Scoresheet and Play by Play

USA and Spain end epic battle in a tie

Greg Eggert, FINA Press Commission Member: The USA team, silver medallists from the 2008 Beijing Olympics, rallied back from a halftime deficit only to relinquish a three goal lead late, resulting in a 9-9 draw with Spain. Kami Craig (USA) scored four goals, three in the third period, to lead the USA offense. Betsey Armstrong (USA) went the distance in net, stopping 10 shots including a penalty shot block. The tie moves USA to 1-0-1 in Group A play. The United States will close out preliminary play with China on Friday.

Spain got off to the quick start scoring the first goal of the match a little over 30 seconds in. The USA responded with Craig's first goal, a backhand, just two minutes later to even things at 1-1. Spain retaliated with consecutive goals to close out the first period and led 3-1 going into the second. In the second frame Melissa Seidemann (USA) started off the scoring with a goal from in close, reducing the deficit to one at 3-2. Both offenses were quiet for the next few minutes with Spain breaking through at the 3:34 mark on a skip shot goal from Jennifer Pareja, one of her four on the night. On the next possession the United States answered with a goal from Maggie Steffens (USA) on a power play, bringing the score to 4-3 in favour of Spain. The Iberians reopened a two goal lead just a minute later as they foiled a USA power play and turned it into a counter attack score for a 5-3 lead. Another USA power play just before the half was snuffed out by Spain and it was a 5-3 match at intermission.

The third quarter belonged to the USA with Craig going on a rampage. With 5:50 to go in the period she got loose inside for a redirect to beat the keeper for a 5-4 game. Moments later, Annika Dries (USA) took advantage on the counter attack and beat the goalie, tying the match at 5-5. Spain responded with an outside shot a minute later to go back in front 6-5, but that would be all for their offense in this period. The following possession for Spain resulted in a drawn penalty but Armstrong was there to deny the attempt. On the next possession for the United States the ball went back to Craig who delivered a skip from in close for a tie game at 6-6. She then gave the USA their first lead of the day at 7-6 with a power play score just two minutes later.

That was the score to open the fourth quarter and the United States kept building on a lob try from Brenda Villa (USA) and a power play goal from Courtney Mathewson (USA) to take a 9-6 lead. With 2:49 remaining Spain began to chip away. They connected on a penalty shot and then followed up with two power play goals, the last coming with :46 to play in the game, evening the score at 9-9. A final chance from the USA in the waning seconds would be no avail and the match ended in a draw.

Spanish player Maica Garcia shared: "We're very happy with a draw against a great team like the USA. It was difficult playing against defenders who are so big, but we did well. I was fortunate to be the one to score goals for our team in the final minutes of the game. I think our coach is happy and we've proved that Spain is ready to fight for the medals. It's always an advantage to be a young team. We've come through the ranks and have a hunger to win. It is our first Olympics and we really want to do well." Spanish teammate Anni Espar Llaquet was proud of her team's play today: "It was the great team spirit that helped us change the momentum of the game today. Our defence needed to be better and we know that everything will work out if we improve in this area."

USA Adam Krikorian confirmed his respect for the Spanish team. "They are maybe the hardest team in the world. We had a hard time in the first half. In the second, we played as we want to play every single game. For our next game we just need to build on that second half we had with Spain."

USA player Kami Craig spoke about today's match: "We just take it one quarter, and one play at a time. We knew this game was going to be a battle and that is what we did, we battled. It was a physical match tonight and the girls did a great job to find me and putting the ball where it needed to be. There are a lot of great games and now every one is becoming difficult." USA teammate Betsey Armstrong agreed: "Every game is a close game, it's not over until the very end. Spain is a great team, but a little unfamiliar and there was an element of surprise. They've played together a long time. We focus on one game at a time. Our next opponent China is a great team, we will focus on them first."

The USA went 4/11 on power plays and did not attempt a penalty while Spain was 4/9 on power plays and 1/2 on penalties. The USA and Spain met in March at the Kirishi Cup with Spain taking a 12-10 victory. USA and Spain are now in a tie for first place in Group A. The final group rankings will determine the quarterfinal match ups with all eight teams advancing on from preliminary play.

Referees: DESLIERES Marie (CAN) BERVOETS Anton (NED)
Delegate:SHARONOV Evgeny (RUS) SOSTAR Aleksandar (SRB)

London, England - August 1 - The U.S. Olympic Women's Water Polo Team came back from a halftime deficit only to relinquish a three goal lead late, resulting in a 9-9 draw with Spain. Kami Craig (Santa Barbara, CA/USC/Santa Barbara WPF) scored four goals, three in the third period, to lead the USA offense. Betsey Armstrong (Ann Arbor, MI/Michigan/NYAC) went the distance in net, stopping 10 shots including a penalty shot block. The tie moves Team USA to 1-0-1 in Group A play. The United States will close out preliminary play with China on Friday, August 3 at 7:40 pm local time/2:40pm est/11:40am pst. The match will air live on NBC on the east coat at 2:40pm est and on delay on the west coast at 1:40pm pst.

Spain got off to the quick start scoring the first goal of the match a little over 30 seconds in. Team USA responded with Craig's first goal, a backhand, just two minutes later to even things at 1-1. Spain retaliated with consecutive goals to close out the first period and led 3-1 going into the second. In the second frame Melissa Seidemann (Walnut Creek, CA/Stanford/Stanford) started off the scoring with a goal from in close, reducing the deficit to one at 3-2. Both offenses were quiet for the next few minutes with Spain breaking through at the 3:34 mark on a skip shot goal from Jennifer Pareja, one of her four on the night. On the next possession the United States answered with a goal from Maggie Steffens, (Danville, CA/Stanford/Diablo) on a power play, bringing the score to 4-3 in favor of Spain. Spain reopened a two goal lead just a minute later as they foiled a USA power play and turned it into a counter attack score for a 5-3 lead. Another USA power play just before the half was snuffed out by Spain and it was a 5-3 match at intermission.

The third quarter belonged to Team USA with Craig going on a rampage. With 5:50 to go in the period she got loose inside for a redirect to beat the keeper for a 5-4 game. Moments later, Annika Dries (Laguna Beach, CA/Stanford/SET) took advantage on the counter attack and beat the goalie, tying the match at 5-5. Spain responded with an outside shot a minute later to go back in front 6-5, but that would be all for their offense in this period. The following possession for Spain resulted in a drawn penalty but Armstrong was there to deny the attempt. On the next possession for the United States the ball went back to Craig who delivered a skip from in close for a tie game at 6-6. She then gave Team USA their first lead of the day at 7-6 with a power play score just two minutes later.

That was the score to open the fourth quarter and the United States kept building on a lob try from Brenda Villa (Commerce, CA/Stanford/Olympic Club) and a power play goal from Courtney Mathewson (Anaheim Hills, CA/UCLA/NYAC) to take a 9-6 lead. With 2:49 remaining Spain began to chip away. They connected on a penalty shot and then followed up with two power play goals, the last coming with :46 to play in the game, evening the score at 9-9. A final chance from Team USA in the waning seconds would be no avail and the match ended in a draw.

Notes: Team USA went 4/11 on power plays and did not attempt a penalty while Spain was 4/9 on power plays and 1/2 on penalties. Team USA and Spain met earlier this year at the Kirishi Cup on March 29, 2012 with Spain taking a 12-10 victory. USA and Spain are now in a tie for first place in Group A. The final group rankings will determine the quarterfinal matchups with all eight teams advancing on from preliminary play.

Scoring
USA 9 (1, 2, 4, 2) K. Craig 4, M. Seidemann 1, B. Villa 1, M. Steffens 1, C. Mathewson 1, A. Dries 1
ESP 9 (3, 2, 1, 3) J. Pareja 4, M. Garcia 2, A. Espar Llaquet 1, R. Tarrago Aymerich 1, L. Lopez Ventosa 1

Saves - USA - B. Armstrong 10 - ESP - L. Ramos Ester 7
6x5 - USA 4/11 - ESP - 4/9
Penalties - USA 0/0 - ESP 1/2

FLASH QUOTES

Adam KRIKORIAN (USA) - head coach

On whether he was surprised by Spain:

"No, not surprised at all. They are maybe the hardest team in the world. We had a hard time in the first half. In the second, we played as we want to play every single game."

On how his team could improve:

"We just need to build on that second half we had with Spain."

Kami CRAIG (USA)

On the match:

"We just take it one quarter, and one play at a time. We knew this game was going to be a battle and that is what we did, we battled."

On her goals:

"It was a physical match tonight and the girls did a great job to find me and putting the ball where it needed to be."

On whether tight matches are good for water polo:

"Absolutely. There are a lot of great games and now every one is becoming difficult."

Betsey ARMSTRONG (USA)

On the dramatic finish (when Spain equalised):

"Every game is a close game, it's not over until the very end."

On Spain:

"Spain is a great team, but a little unfamiliar and there was an element of surprise. They've played together a long time."

On her penalty save:

"There were still two quarters to play and it gave us some momentum."

On the rest of the tournament:

"We focus on one game at a time. China (who USA play next on Friday) is a great team, we will focus on them first."

Greg Mescall
Associate Director of Communications
USA Water Polo

19:40 Game #6 GBR GBR 3 vs AUS AUS 16 Scoresheet and Play by Play

Australia overwhelms Great Britain, 16-3 in Group B match

Greg Eggert, FINA Press Commission Member: Australia gained their second successive Group B victory with a 16-3 rout of Great Britain today. The victory was built on the powerful shooting of Rowie Webster who had five goals and Ash Southern who connected with the goal three times. Australia led 3-1, 6-2 and 11-3 at the breaks.

Australia started strongly with three unanswered goals but the first angered the largely British crowd. Sophie Smith (AUS) drove towards the goal and lobbed the ball. The ball bobbled on the line and must have just barely crossed it according to the goal judge. The home town crowd held a different opinion. Southern (AUS) netted her second and third goals as her assault continued. Chloe Wilcox (GBR) scored for Great Britain inside the final minute of the first quarter, 3-1.

The second quarter was near identical with three additional Australian goals, two for Webster (AUS), then a Wilcox (AUS) net to make it 6-2 at half time. Webster and Southern added to their scores in a 5-1 third period that showcased the skill of the Australian team. A closing 5-0 quarter were nails in the coffin.  

Great Britain was riding a wave of praise after falling to Russia, 6-7 on the first day of Olympic competition. The Brits could not match the counter-attacking, fast passing Australians who possessed a wealth of experience on the Olympic Games stage. During their one-woman advantages, Australia converted four goals from seven attempts and defended 10 of 11.

Great Britain's coach Szilveszter Fekete (HUN) spoke about his team's prior game with Russia: "I think the joy was too big after our previous match and that took away our edge. The concentration levels were definitely lower today. We missed a couple of extra-man chances in the beginning and had we scored from them it might have been a different match."

Rosie Morris (GBR) spoke about her worry that she and her teammates disappointed the home crowd: "The support gives us great confidence, but we felt bad for the crowd today. We never want to upset them and perform like this again. It was embarrassing. I don't think we were good enough. They didn't do anything special, we just didn't perform. Our attacks were not up to scratch." Her teammate Alex Rutlidge (GBR): "We knew that they were strong and one of the favourites. We'll take what we can from that game and use it for the next one. Obviously the medal rounds are in our minds, but we need to gain experience from these games and grow from that." 

Greg McFadden, the Australian skipper spoke about his team: "The girls were very professional. Everything that Great Britain were trying to do, we nullified. We were better tonight than in the game against Italy. We need more consistency." Australia player Ash Southern offered her view of the game: "It was a really good performance and we stuck to our game plan. We studied videos of the British team and we worked our defence. There were a couple of fouls where the referee didn't see what happened under water, but it's all part of the game. It's pretty noise so you can't hear much. We just said the crowd's here for us and we tried to work it to our advantage."

Referees: PINKER Gus (RSA) DANELON Denis (BRA)
Delegate: BADREDDINE Boukezouha (ALG) KRYUKOV Andrey (KAZ)

WATER POLO PLANET.COM: the Alternative Voice    www.waterpoloplanet.com

 

Friday, August 3

14:10 Game #10 ESP ESP 13 vs Hungary HUN 11 Scoresheet and Play by Play

Greg Eggert, FINA Press Commission Member: Spain's women sensationally finished at the top of Group A with a 13-11 victory over Hungary at the London Olympic Water Polo Arena on Friday. Spain has won two matches and drew even with the USA, but they win the group ahead of the USA based on the second tie breaker, the result against the third place team Hungary. USA beat Hungary 14-13 while Spain won their match against the same team by a margin of two goals, yielding the top spot in the group rankings. This scenario is predicated on the USA beating China in the final match of the day at 19:40, where a USA victory will earn five points after three days of competition, but placement below the Spanish team.

Spain's win today came in the fading seconds of the match. Spain dominated the game holding three goal leads on four occasions. Hungary struck back delivering two goals in the last 90 seconds of the match. Dora Czigany (HUN) provided the goal down result at 11-12 with 49 seconds left and called a timeout with 21 seconds on the clock. Spain earned a turnover foul and went to a timeout with 12 seconds on the close. A major foul was called outside five metres and Spain whipped the ball to the two metre line where Anni Espar (ESP) drilled it home for a two goal winning margin with two seconds left.

Spain will play the fourth ranked team in Group B in Sunday's quarterfinal match however they may be without their head coach Miguel Oca. The Spanish coach earned a red card during the final time out when he protested a referee's decision. Normally a red card receives a one match suspension but a decision by the FINA Technical Water Polo committee has not yet been rendered. Hungary's stars were Dora Antal (HUN) with four goals and centre-forward Barbara Bujka (HUN) who scored three times.  

Hungarian skipper Andras Meresz (HUN) revealed: "We agreed what elements of play we should use and how but 80% of those elements were done totally differently in the match. I don't know the reasons and I'll bet the players cannot tell you either. What we lacked today was discipline. If you try to play this sport without it you will beat yourself. Either we play Australia or Russia (in our next match) and we cannot commit so many mistakes. And I can tell you, if we want to win against these teams we cannot commit a single one at all."

Hungarian player Rita Dravucz (HUN) agreed with her coach: "Unfortunately in our heads we were not a team. On Sunday we definitely have to win (our next match)." Teammate Orsolya Takacs (HUN) reported: "Everything is still on the edge. It's still going on. European teams are not so famous for the scratching and the fighting, but it was going on."

Referees: CAPUTI Massimiliano (ITA) DREVAL Svetlana (RUS)
Delegate: BADREDDINE Boukezouha (ALG) KRYUKOV Andrey (KAZ)

15:30 Game #11 Russia RUS 8 vs AUS AUS 11 Scoresheet and Play by Play

Australia edges Russia for their third victory

Greg Eggert, FINA Press Commission Member: Australia beat Russia 11-8 to wrap up Group B with a third consecutive victory in the women's Olympic tournament. Australia led 6-4, 8-5 and 8-6 at the breaks and successfully repulsed a strong challenger from Russia. Like Australia, Russia was unbeaten going into the match.

Australia is the only women's team with three victories at these Olympics, but reminders of the scenario of Beijing 2008 abound. It's possible that Australia is destined for a semi-final showdown with FINA world cup and world league champions USA, should they both win their quarterfinals. Before the tournament, Australia and the USA were tipped to win their groups and not meet until the final, setting up a rematch of the June FINA world league super final.

Three counter attack goals from Nicola Zagame (AUS) and superbly goal keeping from Alicia McCormack (AUS) showed the brilliance of the Australians. The team from down under is capable of repeating their performance from the Sydney 2000 predecessors who won the first women's Olympic goal medal. Ten goals in the opening quarter seemed to sap the energy from both sides. Fewer strikes against the goal were made in the middle half of the match, largely due to high pressure defence from each team.

Russia brought the match to within one goal, three minutes into the final period. Two long range goals from Rowie Webster (AUS) and team captain Kate Gynther (AUS) gave Australia the momentum they need heading into the quarterfinals. Ekaterina Lisunova (RUS) scored three goals for Russia, including one from the penalty line.  

Russian head coach Alexander Kabanov expressed concern about his team's preparation: "The match hasn't been of big importance for us. Unfortunately there are those sort of matches as well. Obviously my players haven't been focused and it was difficult for them to be focused. Australia is very strong physically and is easy for them to be focused all the time." Russian player Olga Beliaeva (RUS) shared his vision about their opponent: "The first and second games we played better, but today was difficult. Australia is a strong team but they played very dirty. I don't understand why the referees didn't stop it. We were fighting instead of playing." Ekaterina Lisunova (RUS) also offered her perspective: "I don't think we were ready for this game and we didn't take (advantage) of the chances we had. It was quite a rough match and the referees did not call enough fouls."

Australian head coach Greg McFadden responded to opponent's claims about Australia's tough playing style: "We play water polo, the referees do their job. We got penalised a bit more today so we have to look at a few little things. But things are just working so we won't change them too much. China (the team Australia will face in the quarterfinals) is a very strong team. Unfortunately, or fortunately, they didn't play that well so far. I hope they continue that way. It's going to be a tough came. We know each other as we trained together a lot of times."  

Looking forward to their next series Australian player Sophie Smith (AUS) said: "Whoever we come up against we've got to win. We've finished at the top of the group which is what we wanted. It (today's match) wasn't the prettiest game we've played. There are always things to work on." Her teammate Alicia McCormack (AUS) was enthusiastic about the team's future: "We have a lot of momentum now and we are where we wanted to be at this stage, so very are very happy. We were confident from our first two matches. You can't be over-confident because everyone here is in the hunt for the gold medal. But we are quietly confident."

Referees: STAMPALIJA Dragan (CRO) DESLIERES Marie (CAN)
Delegate: FARID Mohie (EGY) DR MARTIN Gyorgy (HUN)


18:20 Game #9 GBR GBR 5 vs ITA ITA 10   Scoresheet and Play by Play

Italy collects first victory over Great Britain and will face USA in next match

Greg Eggert, FINA Press Commission Member: Italy gained their first win in the women's Olympic water polo preliminary round and captured the third spot in the Group B match after beating Great Britain 9-5. The victory sets Italy up for a quarterfinal against USA, the reigning FINA World Cup and World League Champions, on Sunday.

Britain, without a win in three games, automatically goes into the quarterfinals of the eight-team completion. They will face Group A champion Spain in their match on Sunday. Teresa Frassinetti (ITA) scored consecutive goals at centre-forward but Britain's main target was Italy captain Elisa Casanova (ITA) who was nullified by the choking defence. Britain struggled in setting up their attacks close to goal and relied on long shots, only one of which struck home.

Athens 2004 Olympic champion Tania Di Mario (ITA) scored three goals for Italy, including their first two. Guilia Emmolo (ITA) was deadly down the right win with another three goals. Britain's best was Ciara Gibson-Byrne (GBR) with two goals, one from seven metres. Both teams were solid on extra man defence. Italy scored on two of seven extra man attack plays while Great Britain scored on only one of their six.

Great Britain's head coach Szilveszter Fekete (HUN) offered his assessment of today's match: "To be honest we are not broken. We wanted to play a great match in front of our supporters, but losing to the European champions should not be regarded as a tragedy, and after this loss now we can meet Spain in the quarters. We always play close matches with them. We had tight ones in the European qualifications, in the world league prelims, and the last time we met in Barcelona we lost 9-7 with Spanish referees on the poolside."

GB player Robyn Nicholls tried to be positive about their three preliminary losses: "It was not our goal to finish last in the group, but on the upside, it does mean we play Spain next. We only lost narrowly to them in a recent match and we can do well against them. We do not want to play aggressive water polo. It is a game of skill and we are not interested in getting into a brawl." GB teammate Chloe Wilcox (GBR) talked about playing against Italy's captain Elisa Casanova (ITA): "It's physically tough. She is bigger and stronger than me, but I have other advantages. I'm a faster swimmer so I can get her tired out, but she's a great player and it's tough. Other teams are no longer coming into the match feeling that they have a guaranteed win anymore. In training the Australians didn't want us poolside. I think they are a little bit scared of us now."

Italian head coach Fabio Conti (ITA) moderated his enthusiasm in his post-game assessment: "There are many smiles, but this is not that important, because our Olympic Games start in two days with the quarterfinals. This was a good game for us, but the GB team is not at our level, although they have progresses so much. We will face the USA who are a very strong team. History has shown that anything can happen in one game."

Italian player Giulia Emmolo (ITA) shared thoughts on today's victory: "It wasn't an easy match, we know we would be up against it with the home crowd. It's going to be a big challenge (facing the USA). We need to prepare mentally and physically, but our coach has trained us properly." Italian teammate Teresa Frassinetti (ITA) put today's win in perspective and explained her black eye: "To be honest, it wasn't the most important game for us. We know that GB would raise their game in front of the home crowd. It was from the match with Russian earlier in the week, they play hard. It depends on the referees, but they have been allowing a lot of physical play, but that can vary from game to game."

Referees: MOLLER German (ARG) MAKITA Kazuhiko (JPN)
Delegate: SHARONOV Evgeny (RUS) WHITEHOUSE John (AUS)

19:40 Game #12 CHN CHN 6 vsUSA USA 7 Scoresheet and Play by Play

USA overhauls China for second victory 

Greg Eggert, FINA Press Commission Member: The USA Women's Water Polo Team completed group play undefeated with a 7-6 win over China. Rallying from a two goal deficit in the second period, the USA team used a five goal run that spanned the late second, third, and early fourth period to claim a lead they would never relinquish. Maggie Steffens (USA) scored a game high three goals and Betsey Armstrong (USA) posted six saves in net. Steffens remains the leading scorer of the tournament with 11 goals. The USA moves on to meet Italy in the quarterfinals on Sunday, August 5. 

The USA got off to a slow start in the win over China, with the Chinese taking a 1-0 lead three minutes into the period. Neither team would score after that as both sides struggled to find the cage. It wasn't until three minutes into the second period that Team USA would get on the board. Kelly Rulon (USA) converted a penalty shot to make it a 1-1 match. China answered with a power play goal on the following possession and then added a penalty shot to take a 3-1 lead with 3:31 left. Steffens scored her first of the night, on a power play, to bring the match to 3-2 in favour of China with 2:07 left in the first half.

That was the score coming out of intermission and the United States dominated the third quarter. The USA kept China off the board and stacked up three goals of their own, turning a one goal deficit into a 5-3 lead by the end of the period. Steffens opened it up with a skip shot, cross cage to beat the keeper. That was followed by Annika Dries (USA) wheeling inside for a score, and then it was back to Steffens for a goal from distance to give the United States the two goal cushion.

Brenda Villa (USA) capped the five goal run on the first possession of the fourth with a shot from outside, putting Team USA in front 6-3. China began to chip away hitting a shot from outside, then one from inside, reducing their deficit to one at 6-5 in favour of the Americans. Less than a minute later, at the 3:57 mark, the USA struck on a power play as Elsie Windes (USA) put one right over the goalie's head for a 7-5 lead. Excellent team defence came back to bite the United States moments later when a shot that was field blocked dropped right at the two metre line, resulting in an easy score for Sun Huizi. 

Leading 7-6, the United States was able to keep the Chinese off the board the rest of the way with Armstrong halting a last second, full-tank heave at the horn to preserve the victory. Ma Huanhuan (CHN) and Sun Yating (CHN) led the Chinese attack with two goals each. The USA went 2/5 on power plays and 1-1 on penalties while China was 3/8 on power plays and 1/1 on penalties. 

The USA and Italy (their opponent in the quarterfinals on Sunday) have met five times this year, with four victories for the United States. The first was on February 15 in Los Alamitos, California, a 17-10 win for the USA. The last meeting was at the FINA World League Super Final on June 1, a 15-2 win against an Italian team containing many younger National Team players. The USA also took two victories and a tie in exhibitions with the Italian National Team on a training trip to Italy this past March. This will be the first time the USA Women have ever played in an Olympic quarterfinal round. 

USA head coach Adam Krikorian (USA) spoke about motivating the US players knowing Spain had won the group: "No, it wasn't. We talked before the game about the need to get better and after (the draw with) Spain (in our last match), I think we played better. We messed up a lot in the beginning of the match and missed many opportunities, but it is important that we found some momentum and we became much better offensively in the second half."

USA player Brenda Villa (USA) spoke following the game: "We have worked hard on our defence, and defence wins games. We always want to win and we're now going to get ready for the quarterfinals. We still need to improve if we want to finish on the podium. As for our rivals, Spain is pretty hot right now. We are confident, but we need to play well."

Teammate Annika Dries (USA) on finishing second in the group and if it explained the slow start: "We are playing every game as if it's our last to get through the tournament. But even though our attack was slow, I think our defence was good." Dries was asked to comment on Maggie Steffens (USA): "She's been capitalizing on the opportunities she's been given, but from previous tournaments we know anyone can score on any day. We have a lot of options, so we aren't worried." Jessica Steffens (USA) when asked about her sister Maggie's contributions and about their next match: "Maggie is a really special player and a special person. She has always wanted to be right in there playing alongside us and now she is. She's performing phenomenally. (Our team is) feeling confident, but we're not quite at the point we want to be at yet, but you don't want to go out playing your best just yet."

Chinese head coach Juan Jane (ESP) on tempering expectations at the Olympic tournament:"In my modest opinion, on the first day we played badly against Spain, the match with Hungary was better, and today we improved further. I am happy with my team as we could play a close match with the USA, who are among the top two teams in the world. After the silver medal in the FINA World Championships last year, everyone asks whether we can win the gold medal here. Too much pressure. I try to cool down everyone. Our team is just one in the field, we have others who go for the title and only one can win." Coach Jane previously led the Spanish men to an Olympic Gold Medal at the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games and was asked about the difference between coaching men and women water polo players: "The women are too excited, they sometimes make decisions too quickly and that is not good for the team. I ask them 10,000 times a day to take their time, think, check the shot clock, check the opponent's position. I hope they will play against Australia (in the quarters) more with their minds than their hearts. It is the only way to win."

Chinese players Yang Jun (CHN) on today's match: "Overall we did very well. It was close today. We must try our best to prepare and play each match well. We will be ready." Her teammate Ma Huanhuan (CHN) was asked about their 3-0 run in the opening quarter of the game: "At first we did well in defence, but later our energy waned and we moved less quickly. We still have room to improve with our shooting as many shots didn't make it into the back of the net, so there is room to improve. We have to try our best to win because the US is a strong team and we have never beaten them. We had to perform our best and give it 100%. Of course I am disappointed but this is not the end and the next game is the key one. That will make the difference. Now we just need to adjust our mental state and prepare well for the next game."

Referees: FLAHIVE Daniel (AUS) BRGULJAN Marijo (MNE)
Delegate: SOSTAR Aleksandar (SRB) SHAW Bill (CAN)

London, England - August 3 - The U.S. Olympic Women's Water Polo Team completed group play undefeated with a 7-6 win over China at the Water Polo Arena earlier tonight. Rallying from a two goal deficit in the second period, Team USA used a five goal run that spanned the late second, third, and early fourth period to claim a lead they would never relinquish. Maggie Steffens (Danville, CA/Stanford/Diablo) scored a game high three goals and Betsey Armstrong (Ann Arbor, MI/Michigan/NYAC) posted six saves in net. Steffens remains the leading scorer of the tournament with 11 goals. Team USA moves on to meet Italy in the quarterfinals on Sunday, August 5. The time of the match and television coverage have yet to be determined.

Team USA got off to a slow start in the win over China, with the Chinese taking a 1-0 lead three minutes into the period. Neither team would score after that as both sides struggled to find the cage. It wasn't until three minutes into the second period that Team USA would get on the board. Kelly Rulon (San Diego, CA/UCLA/NYAC) converted a penalty shot to make it a 1-1 match. China answered with a power play goal on the following possession and then added a penalty shot to take a 3-1 lead with 3:31 left. Steffens scored her first of the night, on a power play, to bring the match to 3-2 in favor of China with 2:07 left in the first half.

That was the score coming out of intermission and the United States dominated the third quarter. Team USA kept China off the board and stacked up three goals of their own, turning a one goal deficit into a 5-3 lead by the end of the period. Steffens opened it up with a skip shot, cross cage to beat the keeper. That was followed by Annika Dries (Laguna Beach, CA/Stanford/SET) wheeling inside for a score, and then it was back to Steffens for a goal from distance to give the United States the two goal cushion.

Brenda Villa (Commerce, CA/Stanford/Olympic Club) capped the five goal run on the first possession of the fourth with a shot from outside, putting Team USA in front 6-3. China began to chip away hitting a shot from outside, then one from inside, reducing their deficit to one at 6-5 in favor of the Americans. Less than a minute later, at the 3:57 mark, the USA struck on a power play as Elsie Windes (Portland, OR/California/Tualatin Hills WP) put one right over the goalie's head for a 7-5 lead. Excellent team defense came back to bite the United States moments later when a shot that was field blocked dropped right at the two meter line, resulting in an easy score for Sun Huizi.

Leading 7-6, the United States was able to keep the Chinese off the board the rest of the way with Armstrong halting a last second, full-tank heave at the horn to preserve the victory. Ma Huanhuan and Sun Yating led the Chinese attack with two goals each.

Notes: Team USA went 2/5 on power plays and 1-1 on penalties while China was 3/8 on power plays and 1/1 on penalties. Team USA and Italy have met five times this year, with four victories for the United States. The first was on February 15 in Los Alamitos, CA, a 17-10 win. The last meeting was at the FINA World League Super Final on June 1, a 15-2 win against an Italian team containing many younger National Team players. Team USA also took two victories and a tie in exhibitions with the Italian National Team on a training trip to Italy this past March. This will be the first time the USA Women have ever played in an Olympic quarterfinal round.

Scoring
USA 7 (0, 2, 3, 2) M. Steffens 3, K. Rulon 1, A. Dries 1, B. Villa 1, E. Windes 1
CHN 6 (1, 2, 0, 3) H. Ma 2, Y. Sun 2, H. Sun 1, Y. Sun 1, Yujun Sun 1

Saves - USA - B. Armstrong 6 - CHN Yang Jun - 10
6x5 - USA - 2/5 - CHN 3/8
Penalties - USA 1/1 - CHN - 1/1

FLASH QUOTES

Adam KRIKORIAN (USA) - head coach

On whether it was difficult to motivate his players knowing Spain had won the group:

"No, it wasn't. We talked before the game about the need to get better and after (the draw with) Spain (in our last match), I think we played better."

On starting the match slowly:

"We messed up a lot in the beginning of the match and missed many opportunities, but it is important that we found some momentum and we became much better offensively in the second half."

Brenda VILLA (USA)

On the match:

"We have worked hard on our defence, and defence wins games. We always want to win and we're now going to get ready for the quarterfinals."

On their prospects for the tournament:

"We still need to improve if we want to finish on the podium. As for our rivals, Spain is pretty hot right now. We are confident, but we need to play well."

Annika DRIES (USA)

On finishing second in the group and if it explained the slow start:

"We are playing every game as if it's our last to get through the tournament. But even though our attack was slow, I think our defence was good."

On whether the team is worried that Maggie STEFFENS (USA) is scoring the majority of goals:

"She's been capitalising on the opportunities she's been given, but from previous tournaments we know anyone can score on any day. We have a lot of options, so we aren't worried."

Jessica STEFFENS (USA)

On her sister Maggie's performance:

"Maggie is a really special player and a special person. She has always wanted to be right in there playing alongside us and now she is. She's performing phenomenally."

On their next match:

"Feeling confident, but we're not quite at the point we want to be at yet, but you don't want to go out playing your best just yet."

Greg Mescall
Associate Director of Communications
USA Water Polo

WATER POLO PLANET.COM: the Alternative Voice    www.waterpoloplanet.com

 

Sunday, August 5

14:50 Game #13 USA USA 9 vs ITA ITA 6 Scoresheet and Play by Play

USA earns berth in semi-final round after beating Italy, next stop is Australia

Greg Eggert, FINA Press Commission Member: United States' dream of a fourth women's Olympic medal, but more especially a first gold, is intact after defeating Italy 9-6 in the third quarterfinal at the Water Polo Arena on Sunday. A tantalizing semi-final with Australia has been booked for Tuesday in what is seen as a battle between the best two teams in the world.

While Australia needed a penalty shootout to win over China, USA had to recover from a two-goal deficit in the first quarter. The USA dug themselves out of that hole and was able coast to victory over Italy, the Athens 2004 champions. Italy has two players from that gold-medal team at London 2012. Tania Di Mario (ITA) did her best with three goals. Italian goalkeeper Elena Gigli (ITA) was tormented by the USA attack, making nine saves compared to Betsy Armstrong (USA) who was in the goal for the United States, stopping 13.  

The USA never panicked when two down. They rallied from a 3-1 first quarter deficit, with a 5-0 run, grabbing a lead they would never relinquish. The USA had a handsome 6-3 lead at halftime but were kept scoreless in the third as Di Mario (ITA) converted a penalty. Kelly Rulon (USA) and captain Brenda Villa (USA), with her second, each scored on extra-man attack for 8-4 with six minutes remaining and the result was almost beyond doubt. Di Mario (ITA) netted her third but when Melissa Seidemann (USA) made it 9-5, Italian head coach Fabio Conti (ITA) saw red and threw his water bottle. Red was the colour of the referee's red card and Conti was sent from the pool deck. Following his ejection from the pool deck neither team would score a goal for the next five minutes. With the match in hand Italy tacked on one final score by Aleksandra Cotti (ITA) with just ten seconds to play but the outcome had been decided. The United States came away winners 9-6. A telling statistic of the game is revealed in the man-up plays: USA converted six from 11 while Italy only one from nine.

The USA has met Australia in every Olympic Games to involve women's water polo. The two met in the Gold Medal final of the 2000 Olympic Games, a win by Australia. That was followed by a meeting in the Bronze Medal match of the 2004 Olympic Games, a win by Team USA. Lastly they met in the semi-finals of the 2008 Olympic Games, also a win by Team USA. 

USA head coach Adam Krikorian (USA) downplayed his team's effort: "None of these games are easy. It wasn't until the last 10 seconds that I knew we'd won. After a rough first minute and a half of the game we maintained our composure and it's a good sign. The biggest difference was our six on five and five on six, we scored six from 11, and we held them one from nine. That was something we struggled with in the previous games. Playing like this gives us confidence. They (Australia) are the most talented team here. They are big, strong physically, swim fast, shoot well, good goalies, they don't have any weaknesses."

USA player Maggie Steffens (USA) offered her excitement over a semi-final berth: "I'm so excited, words do not begin to describe it. We have two games left in the tournament and the next game is so important. We will give it our all. Betsey (USA goalkeeper) was a wall in goal and to know you have that behind you is amazing." USA player Melissa Seidemann agreed: "It was awesome. To be perfectly honest I missed all my shots in the first game and got one goal in the second, so I had to catch up in some way. I think the staple of our team is the defence. We count on Betsey Armstrong (in the goal) so much, she did an awesome job today. Bring it on (their next match against Australia), let's go, we're ready." USA goalkeeper Betsey Armstrong (USA) spoke about her teammates and her own play: "We were great. We were tight everywhere as a team. It was a lot of fun. My defence was tight and I did really well because of them, they set it up for me." 

Italian coach Fabio Conti (ITA) who was ejected from the game offered his perspective: "I don't know, every game of water polo is different. We played total zone defending for a whole quarter and still got more exclusions than USA. I'm only disappointed with the referees. The first part of the tournament was a different story and now it is another. I don't complain about the refereeing in this game, but about the refereeing in the tournament in general. The US team were stronger than us for sure."

Italian player Tania Di Mario (ITA) spoke philosophically about the result: "We are too scared of winning, but obviously we are very disappointed. We have more personality in attack than we do in defence. We need more dignity in defence." Aniko Pelle (ITA) complemented her opponents: "USA took better advantage of their man-up situations and they were also attacking better than us. I didn't give 100%, instead 200%, but I couldn't help my team even with a single goal."

Referees: ALEXANDRESCU Adrian (ROU) CIRIC Mihajlo (SRB)
Delegate: SHAW Bill (CAN) SHARONOV Evgeny (RUS)

London, England - August 5 - The U.S. Olympic Women's Water Polo Team advanced to the semifinals of the 2012 Olympic Games with a 9-6 defeat of Italy. Melissa Seidemann (Walnut Creek, CA/Stanford/Stanford WP) scored three goals and Betsey Armstrong (Ann Arbor, MI/Michigan/NYAC) posted 13 saves in the victory. Team USA rallied from a 3-1 first quarter deficit, with a 5-0 run, grabbing a lead they would never relinquish. The win sets up a semifinal match with Australia on Tuesday with game time and TV coverage to be announced.

The match started off in favor of Italy as they drew a penalty about fifteen seconds into the game. Tania di Mario converted the score for a 1-0 lead. On their next possession Italy buried a shot from distance and they quickly had a 2-0 lead. Kelly Rulon (San Diego, CA/UCLA/NYAC) broke through for Team USA with a power play score at the 4:04 mark, halving the deficit to 2-1. Italy responded 90 seconds later with a power play goal for a 3-1 advantage. The United States closed the period strong with two straight scores. The first a Seidemann tally on a power play to make it 3-2, and then with just three seconds left, Courtney Mathewson (Anaheim Hills, CA/UCLA/NYAC) buried another power play and the match was even at 3-3.

Team USA dominated the second period keeping the Italians off the board while capping that 5-0 run with three more scores. Seidemann cashed in a rebound off a missed shot, on a player advantage, for a 4-3 lead. Holding their first lead of the night the Americans added with a Maggie Steffens (Danville, CA/Stanford/Diablo) goal from outside for a 5-3 lead. The scoring concluded when Brenda Villa (Commerce, CA/Stanford/Olympic Club) found the cage after a bevy of fakes for a 6-3 lead with 3:24 remaining in the half.

In the third, defense was a trademark as only one goal was scored by either side. Italy drew a penalty with 4:08 to go in the period, di Mario converted, and Italy closed to within 6-4. That was the score headed to the fourth where Team USA put the game away. Rulon buried a power play score from in close for a 7-4 lead just a minute into the period. Then a minute after that it was Villa delivering on a power play for an 8-4 lead. Italy scored on a lob shot on their next possession, closing to within 8-5, but it would not slow down the United States. The very next possession saw Seidemann hit from outside, her third of the night, for a 9-5 lead. That was followed by Italian Head Coach Fabio Conti receiving a red card from the officials after tossing a water bottle. Following his ejection from the pool deck neither team would score a goal for the next five minutes. With the match in hand Italy tacked on one final score with just ten seconds to play but the outcome had been decided. The United States came away winners 9-6.

Notes: Team USA went 6/11 on power plays and did not attempt a penalty while Italy was 1/9 on power plays and 2/2 on penalties. Tania di Mario led the Italians in scoring with three goals. Team USA has met Australia in every Olympic Games to involve women's water polo. The two met in the Gold Medal final of the 2000 Olympic Games, a win by Australia. That was followed by a meeting in the Bronze Medal match of the 2004 Olympic Games, a win by Team USA. Lastly they met in the semifinals of the 2008 Olympic Games, also a win by Team USA.

Scoring
USA 9 (3, 3, 0, 3) M. Seidemann 3, B. Villa 2, K. Rulon 2, M. Steffens 1, C. Mathewson 1
ITA 6 (3, 0, 1, 2) T. di Mario 3, A. Cotti 1, F. Radicchi 1, R. Bianconi 1

Saves - USA - B. Armstrong 13 - ITA - E. Gigli 9
6x5 - USA - 6/11 - ITA - 1/9
Penalties - USA - 0/0 - ITA 2/2

FLASH QUOTES

Adam KRIKORIAN (USA) - head coach

On whether it was as easy as it seemed in the second half:

"None of these games are easy. It wasn't until the last 10 seconds that I knew we'd won. After a rough first minute and a half of the game we maintained our composure and it's a good sign."

On what made the difference:

"The biggest difference was our six on five and five on six, we scored six from 11, and we held them one from nine. That was something we struggled with in the previous games. Playing like this gives us confidence."

On Australia, their opponents in the semifinal:

"They are the most talented team here. They are big, strong physically, swim fast, shoot well, good goalies, they don't have any weaknesses."

Maggie STEFFENS (USA)

On making it through to the semifinal:

"I'm so excited, words do not begin to describe it. We have two games left in the tournament and the next game is so important. We will give it our all."

On Betsey ARMSTRONG in goal:

"Betsey was a wall in goal and to know you have that behind you is amazing."

Melissa SEIDEMANN (USA)

On scoring a hat-trick:

"It was awesome. To be perfectly honest I missed all my shots in the first game and got one goal in the second, so I had to catch up in some way."

On reasons for winning:

"I think the staple of our team is the defence. We count on Betsey (ARMSTRONG) so much, she did an awesome job today."

Betsey ARMSTRONG (USA)

On the match:

"We were great. We were tight everywhere as a team. It was a lot of fun."

On her own performance:

"My defence was tight and I did really well because of them, they set it up for me."

Greg Mescall
Associate Director of Communications
USA Water Polo

16:10 Game #14 HUN HUN 11 vs RUS RUS 10 Scoresheet and Play by Play

Greg Eggert, FINA Press Commission Member: Hungary survived a last second Russian rally and was able to clinch a semi-final berth with an 11-10 victory at the Water Polo arena. In the final minutes of the game Russia laid siege to Hungary's goal. Olga Beliaeva's (RUS) point blank shot was blocked before Ekaterina Lisunova's (RUS) rebound was disallowed because the siren had started to sound.

Russia had raced to a 2-0 lead but surrendered their advantage early in the second quarter. Hungary went two ahead with 2:31 remaining. Russia fought back with the fourth goal of Evgenia Ivanova (RUS) which arrived from well outside and after an extra man exclusion period had expired.

Dora Antal (HUN) scored her second goal with 1:19 left on the clock before Russia earned a penalty shot, which Beliaeva converted for 11-10. Russia won the ball and took a timeout with 10 seconds left, then gained an extra man advantage with six seconds left leading to Beliaeva's unsuccessful last second shot.

It sealed a deserved win for Hungary, which had four two-goal margins in a match where neither side managed to gain an advantage in the extra-man situations. Hungary netted one from nine and Russia two from 14 chances.

Alexander Kabanov (RUS) head coach expressed his disappointment: "We lost, that's what happened. They won, so they deserved it." The coach was asked how much his players are shaken with the result: "Very, very much, but very doesn't even cover it." Russian player Olga Beliaeva explained what went wrong: "We played a lot from the (5m) second line and couldn't score a lot. In their defence, we didn't start strong enough and we left it too late in the third quarter. We can't realize right now that we lost, it's unbelievable. Hungary was very lucky today. In the final 10 seconds we thought we had a chance, we thought we could win, we were very determined."

Hungary's head coach Andras Meresz spoke with pride about his country and their national pastime:

"They are water polo players who have grown up in Hungary, home of the greatest, where even the water coming from the showers beings all the knowledge, tricks and braveness of the past. All these creep under the skin and build into your personality. This courage was the key to reach the semi-final. I asked them to start it tough, it has to be us who take a three goal lead from now. But this team is strong enough to come back from anywhere, and they did. I know, later in the game my father and thousands in front of the TV were on the brink of a heart attack, but that's part of the business at this level. I know they (Australia) wanted to surprise us, so I thought we have to risk something even more surprising. We practiced this format in the past and we always conceded a goal. But all the knowledge we gained during these situations helped us to service this. My sweet country is Hungary. I am so happy for the girls. I hope we do not stop because in 48 hours we play again for Olympic medals."

Hungarian player Dora Antal (HUN) discussed today's match: "We are very happy, it is an amazing feeling. It was tough but luckily we scored the last goal and we won. It's a good feeling but it's a team effort. We want the gold medal and we can reach it. We have to improve our game and concentrate more."

Referees: CAPUTI Massimiliano (ITA) BRGULJAN Marijo (MNE)
Delegate: IBERN Lolo (ESP) FIROIU Niculae (GER)

19:00 Game #15 ESP ESP 9 vs GBR GBR 7 Scoresheet and Play by Play

Spain averts near derailment from Great Britain but advances to face Hungary in the semis

Greg Eggert, FINA Press Commission Member: Spain, the form team of 2012, will play Hungary in the semis after they fended off Great Britain 9-7 in the fourth quarter-final at the Water Polo Arena on Sunday.

Playing without the poolside guidance of head coach Miguel Oca (ITA), who was sitting out the game on suspension, Spain looked the most unsettled of the tournament after going 6-2 up at halftime. 

Then the brave Britons struck form, winning the second half 6-3 and going within a whisker of forcing the match into extra time. At 8-6 behind, Great Britain's Angie Winstanley-Smith (GBR) sent out a rocket backhand shot that smashed into the upright. Just over a minute later Frankie Snell (GBR) scored her third from outside on extra-player advantage that had Spain on the edge and golden hopes crumbling.

Both teams had chances before Maica Garcia (ESP) backhanded a shot in from two metres, 27 seconds from time for the 9-7 victory. Spain trailed 1-0 and 2-1 before taking a 3-2 quarter-time lead and advancing that to 6-2 at halftime and 8-5 at the final break.

Ciara Gibson-Byrne (GBR) doubled her tournament tally with two goals in the third period, although it could have been three if she had not bounced a penalty shot wide of the right post. Jennifer Pareja (ESP), Lorena Miranda (ESP) and Anni Espar (ESP) all scored twice for Spain.

Worthy Great Britain will head to the 5-8 classification semi-finals against Russia with continued vigour and determined to collect a first Olympic match win.

Great Britain's coach Szilveszter Fekete (HUN) who was reluctant to speak after the game: "I didn't want to make a comment and I don't even want to make any now. I'm too upset to say anything because I don't want to say any hurting words. Let's have just this: I wasn't surprised it was that close. We wanted to win and we could have won."

GB player Angie Winstanley-Smith (GBR) playing on her 27th birthday: "I didn't really think about it. It would have been better with a win. I came out and thought about what we had to do, not about my birthday, but I'm sure I will look back in years to come and think it was the best birthday. We did ourselves very proud and we gave it everything we had. We are a very young team. We have improved so much over the last four years and, hopefully, if we do the same again over the next four years we will be in with a chance of a medal, for sure. Four years ago we were losing to Russia by 20 goals, so we have come on so much."

Assistant coach Claudio Camerana (ESP) stood in for head coach Miguel Oca (ESP) who was suspended for this match: "We didn't play just against Great Britain, but against the crowd as well. It is our first quarterfinal and nerves and pressure were against us. I would like to congratulate the British team, they played a great game tonight. We believe in ourselves and if we play our game, we will be there (in the final)."

Maica GARCIA (ESP) offered her thoughts on the match being tougher than expected: "We knew it was going to be a tough game, they played really well, but we missed a lot of chances and hit the post a lot. I loved the atmosphere, when you have the crowd against you, it gets me going and I really enjoy it." Spanish player Laura Ester (ESP) spoke about playing against GB at their home venue: "We knew it was going to be difficult as they play at home. They came back really strongly against our goals. If someone told us two weeks ago we would play in the semi-finals we would have been so happy, now we have. Hungary (the next opponent) is a very strong, very physical team." Her teammate Pilar Pena (ESP) offered her compliments of the play from Great Britain: "We didn't know what to expect before the match. They played very well, it was a difficult match for us."

Referees: WILLIAMS Cory (NZL) PINKER Gus (RSA)
Delegate: DR MARTIN Gyorgy (HUN) BADREDDINE Boukezouha (ALG)

20:20 Game #16 CHN CHN 18 vs AUS AUS 20 Scoresheet and Play by Play

Australia advances following penalty shootout victory over China

Greg Eggert, FINA Press Commission Member: Australia's most celebrated player Mel Rippon led her team into the women's semi-finals with a 20-18 penalty-shootout victory over China in the second quarterfinal match today. The game was tied at 14-14 at the end of regulation time. Three Australians and one Chinese had already fouled out of the match. The score was even, 16-16 after two periods of extra time.

It came down to former captain and triple Olympian Rippon (AUS) to nail the game winner. She was the fifth shooter in the normal rotation and delivered the fourth consecutive goal for Australia. China missed their third and fourth shots. Rowie Webster (AUS) missed the first Australian attempt. The scenes of jubilation were everywhere except at China's end of the pool. While the Australian players were dancing and leaping into the pool, some Chinese players were crying after one of the most exciting games in women's Olympic water polo history.

World No. 2 China was winless coming into the quarterfinals, but turned up with their best game against the unbeaten Australians. The match was tied at 5-5 and 8-8 at the quarter breaks while China stepped up in the third, leading 12-10. Australia levelled at 13-13 just 1:28 from full time. China took the lead through Teng Fei (CHN) and Holly Lincoln-Smith (AUS) replied with an unexpected backhand goal from a five-metre foul to send the game into extra time.

Australia won the first three-minute period 2-1. Sun Huizi (CHN), one of the standout performers, levelled when totally free in front of goal 25 seconds from time. In the shootout, Webster's (AUS) shot was saved by Chinese goalkeeper Yang Jun (CHN), while Sun Yating (CHN) had hers blocked by Alicia McCormack. Gao Ao (CHN) struck the left upright. Australia were hampered by the foul count, but still managed to convert two from seven on extra-man attack with China scoring four from 16 chances. At the 2008 Beijing Olympics Australia won bronze defeating Hungary, also in a penalty shootout.

China's head coach Juan Jane (ESP) explained where they lost the match: "We had a strong chance in the last quarter, but the players were unable to pay full attention in the most important moment, especially in the end with the back-handed shot (which was the equalizer for Australia). But this is sport, this is life, sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. I think the players' mentality was OK, but probably they forgot that Australia is a strong team and they can play a lot better which they did. The penalties are all about luck. We made the set-ups, created the opportunities, but opted for the wrong solution. Our passes were bad in the key moments."

Chinese player Yang Jun (CHN) shared her comments: "All the players played really well, but maybe I missed some. I'm very sorry to disappoint everyone." Her teammate Ma Huanhuan (CHN) said: "We played with spirit, it was very hard and it was just bad luck that we lost. Australia are the old enemy." Another teammate Sun Yating (CHN) was succinct: "We played as our coach told us to, with spirit and determination."

Head coach Greg McFadden (AUS) full of enthusiasm after the match: "What a game. Fantastic effort from the girls. In the second half we were just defending, defending, defending. For the penalties, I had to change the line-up because four of our best penalty takers were excluded. You need to have a lot of guts to step up and to take penalties. They (the Chinese team) are full-time professionals, they've trained two to three times every day for so many years, yet we still won it. That shows the courage of the girls."

Holly Lincoln-Smith (AUS) scored the goal that made it 14-14 and took the match into overtime: "I just did what I had to do at that moment. I didn't think too much about it afterwards, I just kept calm and focused. I felt confident. I'm a pretty outgoing person, I like being the centre of all the attention in there, but at that moment it was just about me, the ball and the goalie." Mel Rippon (AUS) spoke about what the win means to the team: "It keeps our Olympic dream alive, as the quarters can end your dream, or put you through for a possible medal and luckily we did it." Rippon was thrilled that goalkeeper Alicia McCormack (AUS) saved a penalty in the shoot-out: "She's been playing so well and you never expect a goalie to save a penalty in the shoot-out, but we had faith in her to step up and she did."

Referees: STAVRIDIS Georgios (GRE) STAMPALIJA Dragan (CRO)
Delegate: FARID Mohie (EGY) SOSTAR Aleksandar (SRB)

WATER POLO PLANET.COM: the Alternative Voice    www.waterpoloplanet.com

 

Tuesday, August 7

Greg Eggert, FINA Press Commission Member: Spain and the USA will meet on Thursday to challenge for the gold medal at the London 2012 women's Olympic tournament. These two teams tied at 9-9 when they met last week in the preliminary round. Spain is making its first appearance in the women's Olympic tournament whereas it's the fourth consecutive appearance for the USA in the medal round and the third time the USA is playing for the gold medal, something that has eluded the team.  

USA veterans Brenda Villa (USA) and Heather Petri (USA) will enter the record books as four time Olympic medallists on Thursday. The US veteran players are seeking their first Olympic gold medal to go with two silver and one bronze medals they already own. The USA was second to Australia in Sydney 2000 and silver medallists again in Beijing 2008 losing to the Netherlands, 8-9.

A rematch of the 2008 Olympic bronze medal match is also slated for Thursday. In Beijing four years ago the Australian team won the bronze medal in a penalty shootout with Hungary, 12-11. Australia won the first women's water polo Olympic gold medal in the 2000 Sydney Games. 

Italy will face Great Britain to determine which team finishes in 7th place. China will meet Russia with the winner earning 5th place in the tournament.

14:10 Game #17 ITA ITA 10 vs CHN CHN 14 Scoresheet and Play by Play

China knocks over Italy on path to play for 5th place

Greg Eggert, FINA Press Commission Member: China moved into the play-off for 5th place with a 14-10 victory over Italy in a 5th-8th semi-final women's match this Tuesday. Italy, the Athens 2004 Olympic champions had no answer to the Chinese attack that caused so many problems for Australia in Sunday's quarterfinals.

China worked early extra-man chances, making Italy pay for heavy fouling and led 5-2 at the quarter, 10-4 at half-time and 12-6 at the last break. Italy relied heavily on the shooting prowess of Athens 2004 gold medallist Tania Di Mario, who converted two penalty goals, and two extra-man plays for four goals and 10 for the tournament. Fellow gold medallist, goalkeeper Elena Gigli had a poor first half in goal and was replaced at three-quarter time by stand-in head coach Alexandra Araujo. Regular head coach Fabio Conti (ITA) was sitting out due to a suspension.

China's strength was quality shooting, especially from the deep-left-wing position. Six players scored twice for China, with Ma Huanhuan's two giving her 10 for the championship. China have played their best two games in succession, but will only get to play for 5th while Italy will play for 7th. Both teams converted three from nine on man-up situations.

Italian head coach Fabio Conti (ITA) on his disappointment of being defeated by China: "It is not easy to play this part of the tournament but, in the sporting life, you should be happy when you win and try to be positive when you lose. Before the London Olympic Games we were thinking that we might win the gold, but also that we could be last. That is how the tournament went on. After the Olympics we will discuss a new programme. Our players are European champions and the outcome of this tournament is just unfortunate for us." Assistant coach Monica Vaillant (ITA) offered: "It was the best we could do knowing we weren't playing for a medal. The match hasn't been as good as we thought, but we reacted well throughout the whole game. We played with less energy than expected. Throughout the whole tournament we played with less energy and this is why we didn't get a chance for a medal. In this match we tried to catch up with the Chinese, you could see that at the end of the match. Still, we were playing with regrets of having no medal chance." 

Chinese head coach Juan Jane (ESP) on bouncing back from the bitter loss to Australia in the quarters (in a penalty shootout): "The players were really low yesterday morning, but we had meetings, training and they started to come up. I'm happy with my players' mentality." On whether going for the fifth place is a disappointment after last year's world championships silver medal: "Many people in China dreamed of a medal, preferably the gold. But everyone has to understand that you cannot stand on the podium all the time. It depends on many things. Before this, we lost our last three matches by one goal to top ranked opponents. One goal is about being a little lucky or unlucky. We had bad luck. Still, I'm proud of my team, as they played face-to-face matches with the best teams in the world."

Player Ma Huanhuan (CHN) on missing out on the medals: "It is a pity as it was our dream to win the gold or to get to the final. Every game we put in as much effort as we can. In the first game, when we played against the Spanish (which they lost 11-6), we were very nervous so we didn't play very well, but for the games after that, we tried our best."

Referees: DREVAL Svetlana (RUS) BERVOETS Anton (NED)
Delegate: FIROIU Niculae (GER) IBERN Lolo (ESP)

15:30 Game #19 USA USA 11 vs AUS AUS 9 Scoresheet and Play by Play

USA defeat Australia to advance to gold medal final match

Greg Eggert, FINA Press Commission Member: High drama preceded USA women's 11-9 extra time semi-final victory over Australia. The USA will play for an Olympic gold medal, the third time since the inclusion of women's water polo in the Olympic Games.

The USA was ahead 9-8 and only one second on the clock in regulation time when USA head coach Adam Krikorian called for a timeout. As the USA did not have possession of the ball, play was stopped as the referee deemed the USA's request to be an illegal timeout. The two referees had a discussion and conferred with FINA officials to confirm their decision to award a penalty shot to Australia. Ash Southern (AUS) converted for her fourth goal and forced the game into extra-time.

The match was just as close as the finish. Australia started things off with a power play goal from Southern (AUS) a little over two minutes into the match for a 1-0 lead. They followed with a goal less than a minute later for a 2-0 lead. The USA got on the board with 1:30 to play in the period when Courtney Mathewson (USA) delivered on the power play for a 2-1 game. Lauren Wenger (USA) followed on the next possession with a shot that ricocheted off the goalie's hand, off the crossbar, and then back off the goalie's head and into the cage for a 2-2 game. Australia drew a penalty on their next possession and converted for a 3-2 lead. That was followed by Wenger (USA) who came free with two seconds left in the period, evening the match at 3-3 headed to the second quarter.

In the second, USA struck first when Melissa Seidemann (USA) found the cage at the 5:26 mark for a 4-3 lead. Australia answered seconds later on another goal from Southern (AUS) for a 4-4 game. Maggie Steffens (USA) came calling on the very next possession with a power play goal for a 5-4 lead. She followed that up moments later with a lob shot for a 6-4 score in favour of the United States. Australia rebounded with a goal on their next possession to close within 6-5. The USA had a chance to rebuild a two goal lead when Annika Dries (USA) drew a penalty, but Brenda Villa (USA) failed to convert and it remained a one goal game at halftime.

The third period was a defensive battle with each side scoring just once. Maggie Steffens (USA) broke through first with a goal out of two meters for a 7-5 lead with 2:49 remaining in the period. Less than a minute later Australia responded with a power play score for a 7-6 game as play moved to the fourth. Three minutes into the fourth period it was Jessica Steffens (USA) connecting on a power play for an 8-6 lead. Over the next three minutes Australia roared back with two straight power play goals, evening the game at 8-8 with 2:14 left. Seidemann answered the call for the USA with 1:40 left, hitting on a power play for a 9-8 lead. That led to the closing seconds of regulation where Australia was able to tie the game on the penalty and force overtime.

The USA dominated the first overtime period, keeping Australia off the board and posting two goals. Maggie Steffens (USA) hit the first score on a power play to grab the lead. Then with just three seconds left Kami Craig (USA) connected out of two metres for an 11-9 lead. The two teams neutralised each other in the second and final overtime period, but the damage had been done by the United States as they claimed the 11-9 win and a berth in the final. 

The United States went five for 11 on power plays and zero for one on penalties while Australia was four for seven on power plays and two for two on penalties. Southern (AUS) led the Aussies in scoring with four goals. It was the fifth Olympic clash between the USA and Australia. Australia finished on top twice in 2000 (7-6 in the rounds and 4-3 in the final) while the USA won the 2004 Athens bronze medal match 6-5 and the Beijing semi-final 9-8.  

Australia won the first women's water polo Olympic gold medal in the 2000 Sydney Games. In Beijing four years ago they won the bronze medal in a penalty shootout with Hungary. Tuesday's semi-final was Australia's second consecutive game to go to extra-time following the 20-18 penalty shootout quarterfinal win over China on Sunday.

Maggie Steffens (USA) scored four times, including the go-ahead goal in the first overtime, to push the United States to the victory. Goalkeeper Betsey Armstrong (USA) posted 11 saves in net as Australia was held scoreless in both overtime periods. USA veterans Brenda Villa (USA) and Heather Petri (USA) will enter the record books as four time Olympic medallists on Thursday. Each are seeking their first Olympic gold medal to go with two silver and one bronze medals they already own.

Australian head coach Greg McFadden (AUS) said: "I don't know whether we were lucky, because we deserved a penalty 15 seconds earlier so it was a kind of justice, and we got a lifeline. But America were too good, too strong and they did what they needed to win in extra time. Any loss is devastating in a semi-final, but losing to America is no embarrassment. They were the most consistent in this Olympic cycle. They have rarely been beaten and today they were too good for us. The girls who are here for their first Olympics came with the same aim. It's sad for everyone (that we lost today). We had an emotional game against China (on Sunday Australia beat China in an extra time match that also finished with a penalty shootout) and it took a lot of energy out of us. It's tough to have to do that again, especially against the USA. I'm proud of the girls, they showed great character."

Australian player Ash Southern shared her thoughts after today's loss: "It's pretty devastating after four years of hard work. We never gave up, but it just wasn't there at the end. Credit to the USA, they put up a very good fight. We weren't expecting the penalty. It was another life for us and with the extra-time it gave us another chance, but we were just so tired at the end." Her teammate Rowie Webster was extremely disappointed: "We just gave away a gold medal. They (USA) are definitely our biggest rivals, we match up well together. It was a very fast, physical game and they're the big shots who everyone wants to beat. That is what we train for, but they were better on the day. With one second to go there was always hope we didn't lose any faith. We got a second opportunity. There were really two strong teams out there, but today wasn't our day."

Adam Krikorian (USA) explained the fall out from the time-out he called for when USA didn't have the ball in the final second. "It was my fault, it was a bad decision. I thought Betsey Armstrong had the ball. Everything happened so quickly, but it was a big mistake on my part and it could have cost us the game. Sometimes the coach can let you down and the players need to pick you up. Thankfully they did that today." On what he was thinking when he realised his mistake: "I was feeling horrible. It went through my mind that I might have blown it. But I said to my players that this is not going to stop us."

Melissa Seidemann (USA) on playing against Australia in the semi-final: "I knew it was going to be a tight game, but I also believe that every team is really tough in the semis." Kami Craig (USA) on what happened in the last second of normal time (when Australia were awarded a penalty): "Who knows, who cares? We were ready to play overtime. We practice for these high-pressure situations."

Lauren Wenger (USA) on Australia: "There is great rivalry with them. They bring it, we bring it. It's always going to be a great game."

Referees: SPIEGEL Ulrich (GER) DESLIERES Marie (CAN)
Delegate: SHARONOV Evgeny (RUS) SOSTAR Aleksandar (SRB)

18:20 Game #18 RUS RUS 11 vs GBR GBR 9 Scoresheet and Play by Play

Russia drops Great Britain to advance to classification final against China

Greg Eggert, FINA Press Commission Member: Russia had to come from behind five times to beat Great Britain 11-9 in a round 5-8 women's semifinal at the Water Polo Arena on Tuesday. Great Britain proved worthy of Olympic participation and the ability to go ahead so many times shows they are the next biggest team on the world stage. The game was locked at 3-3 after the first quarter while Great Britain had a 5-4 half-time advantage.

Great Britain twice went ahead in the crucial third period but Russian perseverance and two late goals gave them an 8-7 lead. Great Britain came within one at 9-8 and 10-9 and pressing to level inside the final four minutes. 

It was not to be as Russian captain Sofya Konukh scored her third goal in nine minutes with a long-range shot from inside halfway and near the side of the pool for 11-9. Ekaterina Prokofyeva (RUS) scored three of her four goals in the first half. Great Britain's best were Francesca Snell and Chloe Wilcox with three each.

Great Britain may not have won the game but proved superior on extra-man attack with four goals from 10 attempts compared to Russia's two from 10. Russia goes to the 5-6 play-off and Great Britain to the 7-8 decider.

Great Britain head coach Szilveszter Fekete (GBR) on losing a tight match to Russia for the second time in the tournament: "It was similar to the one we played with Russia on the opening day and we had the chances in the last minutes again. We lost this one earlier when we missed a couple of great opportunities, but we could not finish man-ups from two metres." On their progress in the past five years: "In 2007 we lost our first international match to the Netherlands 21-1. We have come a long way since then, especially when you see we have played a close match with a strong opponent such as Russia."

Rosie Morris (GBR) on what the team are lacking: "People forget that these teams are so much more experienced. I don't know mentally if we have got it yet." On their prospects against Italy for 7th place:

"Our aim (at the start of the tournament) was to win a game or two. We've shown that we're not just a wildcard, we're up there with the top teams, and if we play well we can win." Teammate Angie Winstanley-Smith (GBR) on another close defeat by the Russians: "It's gutting. The first game with them was so close, and to come so close again is hard to take, especially with the support. We want to win a match for them."

On the support of the GB fans: "I am a bit of a joker in the team, but I manage to get quite serious before a game. But when you see that (support), I can't help but smile. It makes it really special."

Russian head coach Alexander Kabanov (RUS) on how difficult it was to play against Great Britain: "It was difficult psychologically after the defeat in the quarter-final against Hungary. It was difficult to change direction. We have played some part of the match very good, some of it very bad." On whether he will find a way to motivate his team to play for fifth place: "We'll be searching for motivation."

Russian player Sofya Konukh (RUS) on whether they were surprised with how close the match was: "No, because Great Britain are improving from game to game, especially with the support of the crowd." On whether there is anything they need to improve on for the next game: "Of course. Our defence in man-ups. They are a crucial part of the game." 

Referees: DANELON Denis (BRA) MOLLER German (ARG)
Delegate: FARID Mohie (EGY) DR MARTIN Gyorgy (HUN)

19:40 Game #20 HUN HUN 9 vs ESP ESP 10 Scoresheet and Play by Play

Spain knocks Hungary into bronze medal match

Greg Eggert, FINA Press Commission Member: Spain booked a gold-medal date with FINA world cup champions United States after beating Hungary 10-9 in the second women's semi-final day. It sets up an enthralling encounter between two teams who drew 9-9 in group play and says a lot about Spain's emergence on the world stage in 2012. 

For Spain, it will be a chance to win the Olympic crown at their first appearance. Spain led 2-1 at the quarter and changed at half-time 7-5 ahead after a period in which Anni Espar (ESP) scored her second and third goals and Hungary dropped in the last two after being four down. Espar nailed her fourth to take Spain into the fourth period 9-7 ahead and Maica Garcia (ESP) made it 10-7 on extra-man advantage with four minutes remaining. Hungary pulled one back at 2:29 and another in the last second, but Spain were never seriously threatened, being in control throughout with excellent passing, defence and shooting skills.

Spanish assistant coach Jordi Valls might not be on the bench for the final, having gained a red card midway through the final quarter. Spanish head coach Miguel Oca, who missed the quarterfinal because of suspension, had the team working slickly and his hopes must be to win the final and attain the rare distinction of winning gold as a player (Atlanta 1996) and as a coach. Spain struggled on the man-up situations, converting only two from 14 chances. Hungary scored four from 13. 

Hungarian head coach Andras Meresz (HUN) on conceding two or three goals at the beginning of matches: "Some said how brave and tough the girls were to come back against China and against Russia to win those matches. They are brave, but I asked them if we could try to go in front this time? You cannot count on always coming back as quality teams will not let the match slip out of their hands." On what went wrong today: "We lacked precision in attack. Both teams rely heavily on their centre forwards, they earned a series of exclusions from that position, while I couldn't recall a single pass which perfectly fed the centre forward today." On whether the two teams are at the same level as USA and Australia (the other two semi-finalists): "These two teams (Spain and Hungary) are built for the future, most of the players are embarrassingly young to play in Olympic semi-finals, and both teams have performed way above our real levels."

Hungarian player Rita Dravucz (HUN) on the result: "Not good. I am so sorry for this game. We could have done better." On what they need to do to win bronze: "We want bronze and we will talk about the next match and take it from there." Hungarian teammate Orsolya Takacs (HUN) shared her thoughts after the match: "Spain have never lost in the Olympics, so we knew it was going to be a hard match. We couldn't get past them. We had a lot of missed chances today and we have to learn from our mistakes." On the bronze-medal match: "We have one more match and we have to win. We are not going to give up."

Spanish head coach Miguel Oca (ESP) on being in the gold medal game against USA on Thursday:

"I'm so happy, very happy. Did we expect it? I don't know, we had a very good Olympic qualification tournament and we were thinking we could do something here as well." On whether Spain is becoming a world power after winning the junior 2011 World championships and reaching the final of London 2012: "I don't know, that is for other people to say. At the moment, we are junior world champions and Olympic finalists." Spanish player Roser Tarrago (ESP) on how it feels being in the final: "It was our aim at the beginning of the tournament, but the job is not done yet, we still have one game to win." On where there were any nerves towards the end of the game: "In the last four minutes we didn't attack, but we were told to calm down, and at the end we knew we had done it." Her teammate Jennifer Pareja (ESP) on how they reached the final: "We wanted to play and win every match and we've done it. We were hoping to win and I'm so happy we've achieved it." On their prospects in the final: "It will be very hard as USA is a very good team, but we will fight to win."

Referees: STAMPALIJA Dragan (CRO) CAPUTI Massimiliano (ITA)
Delegate: AMINI Khosrow (IRI) SHAW Bill (CAN)

WATER POLO PLANET.COM: the Alternative Voice    www.waterpoloplanet.com

 

Thursday, August 9

Greg Eggert, FINA Press Commission Member: The USA played their fourth Olympic water polo tournament before achieving their highest reward, an Olympic gold medal. Two USA players, Brenda Villa and Heather Petri now have four medals, one from each women's tournament since competition was inaugurated in the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games.  

Spain achieved its historic triumph, the silver medal, in their first time in the Olympic tournament. Australia leaves London with a bronze medal, the only other nation to compete for an Olympic medal in each of the last four Olympic Games. Australia defeated the USA in the first tournament in the Sydney 2000 Games, and collected a bronze four years ago in Beijing. The Australian team finished fourth in 2004 Athens Olympics. 

The complete ranking of the 2012 Water Polo Women's Tournament also includes: 4. Hungary; 5. China; 6. Russia; 7. Italy; 8. Great Britain

14:30 Game #21ITA ITA 11 vs GBR GBR 7 7th Place Scoresheet and Play by Play

Italy beats Great Britain to earn 7th place 

Greg Eggert, FINA Press Commission Member: Athens 2004 champions Italy came from two goals behind to beat Great Britain 11-7 in the play-off for 7th place. Great Britain held a 3-2 advantage at the end of the first quarter, but by midway through the second period, Italy went in front and surged away for the win.

Athens 2004 gold medallist Tania Di Mario (ITA) scored her seventh and eighth penalty goals, plus two field goals, to finish with a total of 18 for the tournament. Her influence was what held Italy together, but the Italians were far from the force of old.

After a great first quarter, Great Britain conceded five consecutive goals to be 6-3 down at half-time and trailed 9-5 after three periods. Francesca Clayton (GBR) scored her only two goals of the tournament in the match. It was Great Britain's first Olympics and the quality of their play turned heads and heralded a new team in the top echelon of women's water polo.

Italy will be disappointed with finishing seventh, considering that just seven months ago they won the European crown. Great Britain scored two goals from six man-up situations, while Italy scored three from five.

Great Britain's head coach Szilveszter Fekete (HUN) on remaining winless at the Olympics: "We aimed to play even matches with the others even though we were regarded the underdogs without a chance. I think we managed to stay close to such powerhouses as Russia, Italy and Spain. It's interesting to see Spain in the final, while we finished bottom." On whether he dares to say the British team can make the 2016 Games in Rio through qualifying: "Why not? If you take out (Elisa) Casanova or (Tania) Di Mario from the Italian team, they're going to be much weaker. Those two players will probably retire soon, and (Sofya) Konukh won't play forever for the Russians either. We can grow stronger while the others lose their key-players - so the door is wide open, for sure." On the team's future: "I think we have a solid base to go on. It's time for British water polo to rise. I picked 13 players from a 20-membre squad, but for the next Olympic cycle we will have more new faces coming from the juniors. We will have 30 good players to choose from, and I don't think most other countries have a wider pool."

GB player Rosie Morris on summing up their performance: "It's frustrating more than anything, it was again a tight match, but again we have come up just short. It's our first Olympic Games and I think we have shown that we can keep up with the best."  On the possibility for future funding: "I would like to think so, as we have given these teams a good match. We have come from losing by 20 goals to now making the games very close." Her teammate Beckie Kershaw asked if she has enjoyed her Olympic experience: "We were so focused on beating Italy today. I can't put it into words. I've never felt anything like it. Team GB really is like a family. Whenever we've won a medal, everyone feels like we've done the country proud."

Italian head coach Fabio Conti on summing up Italy's tournament: "We arrived here with our batteries not charged enough. We spent a lot of energy in the Olympic qualifying tournament and that was the most important thing for us. We tried to prepare properly, but this is sport and sometimes you are good and sometimes you are just not good enough." On what the future holds for the Italian team: "Every single year it's a new project. I started with this team 20 months ago and we now need a new project for the next Olympics."

Italian player Elisa Casanova on their tournament: "The results didn't go as well as we hoped, but that's sport for you. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose." Her teammate Giulia Emmolo (ITA) on winning the game and finishing seventh: "I think it is important to finish well, this is my first experience of the Olympic Games and I have loved every minute." On where the Italian team can go from here: "It is important we don't give up. Every time you play you must work hard and we will continue to play with our hearts in every game."

Referees: FLAHIVE Daniel (AUS) JUHASZ Gyorgy (HUN)
Delegate: BADREDDINE Boukezouha (ALG) SHARONOV Evgeny (RUS)

15:50 Game #22 CHN CHN 16 vs RUS RUS 15 5th Place Scoresheet and Play by Play

China stops Russia in extra time and finishes 5th 

Greg Eggert, FINA Press Commission Member: China needed extra time to beat Russia 16-15 in the play-off for 5th place. The match was locked at 14-14 by full time in a match that had teams swapping the lead. China scored a goal in each of the two extra three-minute periods and Russia only one to end their Olympics.  

Ma Huanhuan (CHN), voted most valuable player at the FINA World Championships in 2011, took her tally to a tournament-high 19 with six goals, including her fifth, which levelled the match to go into extra time. Ma, fittingly, scored the first of the extra-time goals for 15-14 in the first period. Wang Yi (CHN) scored her fourth to take the margin to 16-14 in the second period. Russia drew one back through Nadezhda Fedotova 10 seconds from time.

By the end of three periods, when the score was 11-11, China had taken the lead five times and Russia four. The quarter scores were 3-3, 9-8 to Russia and 11-11. Alexandra Antonova (RUS) scored three goals in the third period and her fourth in the last. For Russia, it was an improvement from seventh at Beijing 2008 and China repeated their fifth place. On the extra-man count, China netted four from 12 chances and Russia five from 11.

Russian head coach Alexander Kabanov on losing the match: "A loss is not good for the soul, we will learn from this and make sure that it doesn't happen again. We can't be satisfied with where we have finished." Russian player Sofya Konukh on their performance: "It was an extremely disappointing performance for us, but we have a lot of young girls on the team who are very good and have a bright future."

Russian player Ekaterina Prokofyeva on what was the difference in the game: "We had a lot of exclusions today, which made our defence weak in periods of the game. I didn't think that all of the exclusions were fair." On finishing sixth in the tournament: "We are not happy with finishing sixth place. We really wanted to win this game, we wanted to win it for ourselves, we had to win." Her teammate Olga Belova on whether sixth place is good enough for Russia: "No, it is not good. Our defence has been far from good." On what the future holds for the Russian team, one of the youngest at London 2012: "We will do the best that we can do and we will work hard. That will be our future."

China's head coach Juan Jane (ESP) on the team's 5th place finish: "We always enter the Olympics wanting to do our best and I am fairly pleased with where we finished. Chinese water polo is among the best in the world." On the match: "We suffered a hard loss against Australia (in the quarterfinals), so in the end I am pleased with the way the players have come back from that."

China player Gao Ao on the match: "It was a tougher game than we expected, but we are pleased with the win and we did not want to come lower than we did at the last Olympics (fifth)." On enjoying the Olympic Games: "It is my second Olympic Games and I think the first time I did not get into the Olympic spirit, but this time I have enjoyed it a lot more." Teammate Ma Huanhuan on how China has played in the tournament: "We're satisfied with the results overall, we've played better as the tournament has gone on. I'm happy we've shown our strength to the people in China." On scoring six goals in the match: "Personally, I'm very proud, but I couldn't achieve it without the help of my teammates."

Referees: LITTLEJOHN Brian (GBR) ROTSART Steven (USA)
Delegate: KRYUKOV Andrey (KAZ) SHAW Bill (CAN)

18:40 Game #23 AUS AUS 13 vs HUN HUN 11 Bronze Medal Scoresheet - Play by Play

Australia puts down extra-time challenge by Hungary to capture bronze

Greg Eggert, FINA Press Commission Member: Australia survived a major mistake on the final buzzer before beating Hungary 13-11 in extra time to claim the women's bronze medal. The victory was a repeat of Beijing 2008 in which the Australian women beat Hungary with the final shot of a penalty shootout.

Australian goalkeeper Alicia McCormack thought she was safe in holding the ball in the final 10 seconds when her team were 11-10 ahead but Dora Antal (HUN) had other ideas. Antal swam underwater to McCormack, surfaced, stole the ball and backhanded it into goal on full time for 11-11 amid a deafening roar. Australia emerged from the two, three-minute periods virtually unscathed amid wild scenes in which Hungarian head coach Andras Meresz was red-carded and sent from the pool deck.

It was centre forward Gemma Beadsworth who scored the first goal for 12-11 and after gaining an exclusion in the dying seconds, she lobbed for her fourth goal - 10th for the tournament  - and a 13-11 victory. Australia relinquished two four-goal leads, 7-3 late in the second quarter and 8-4 early in the third, and watched as Hungarians Rita Keszthelyi and Gabriella Szucs brought the game from 11-8 down to 11-10 in the final quarter before Antal's inspired goal. She and Beadsworth were instrumental in their teams' magnificent showings in a match worthy of one of the best in the 12-year history of women's water polo at the Olympic Games.

Hungarian centre forward Barbara Bujka was the biggest threat to Australia, inspiring her team with a handful of ejections and two goals to finish arguably as the best two-metre player at London 2012. Hungary was unable to deliver for their huge support base, which included the nation's president Janos Ader who was in attendance tonight. Australia were devastatingly accurate in the extra-man plays, converting five from nine, compared to Hungary's three from 13.

Hungarian head coach Andras Meresz on the dramatic equaliser at the end of normal play: "This is Hungarian water polo in its prime. Even when all seemed lost we came back from the bottom of the pool. We did it when we trailed by four and then again in the last seconds. In fact, Dora Antal also came from the bottom to grab the ball from the goalie and scored. No one does it, just the Hungarians. It's genetics, old school, water polo culture, knowledge of one hundred years." On going home without a medal: "We would have deserved a medal, but this team were robbed. Anyone who watched the match should know who committed the sins against the girls."

Hungarian team player Orsolya Takacs on how she feels: "Really bad, so sad. It was really hard to lose the bronze medal match." On what went wrong: "It didn't go wrong. Australia were just so good." On what she was thinking when Dora Antal scored to equalise in the last second of normal time: "I thought 'we just got back the match'. This showed our team's strength, we had a chance." Her teammate Edina Gangl on the match: "It was really hard, we fought well, but we couldn't make it."

Australian head coach Greg McFadden asked about conceding a goal in the last seconds which forced the game into extra-time: "It was just a brain snap, I didn't expect that. We have controlled the ball, but we lost it in the final seconds. Anyway, the girls have showed composure and they came back." On winning the bronze medal: "We have played well and were beaten just once. We've played three matches that have gone into extra-time, including one penalty shootout. Tough week, tough Olympics, but the girls have worked hard and they deserved a medal."

Australia veteran player Mel Rippon on how relieved she is to have won the bronze medal: "Very relieved and so proud of our team. We kept fighting to the end." On conceding a goal with the last play of regulation time: "We got too excited, we always said we would concentrate until the last buzzer, but we got carried away." Her teammate Kate Gynther on the last second goal for Hungary that tied the match in normal time: "Honestly, after this week, I wouldn't put anything past us. It was a great move by the Hungarians and it paid off for them." On getting over the disappointment of losing to USA in the semi-finals: "We saw family and friends and they really help you through it, but the bronze is a huge thing to play for. We had a good video and tactic session and got on with the job."

Referees: ALEXANDRESCU Adrian (ROU) STAMPALIJA Dragan (CRO)
Delegate: IBERN Lolo (ESP) FOSTER Richard (USA)

20:00 Game #24 USA USA 8 vs ESP ESP 5 Gold Medal Game Scoresheet-Play by Play

USA overwhelms Spain to capture team's first gold medal

Greg Eggert, FINA Press Commission Member: Maggie Steffens (USA) carved her name indelibly into Olympic history with a five-goal effort to lift the United States to a gold medal over Spain 8-5 in the women's competition at the Water Polo Arena on Thursday. The tournament's most valuable player, proved that at 19 years of age, she is one to watch for the future, even though she already holds world cup and three world league crowns. Four years ago she was in the spectator benches cheering on her older sister Jessica Steffens (USA) to the team's second Olympic silver medal. Now the sisters are also teammates and stand among the pantheon of stars and legends as Olympic champions.  

Steffens (USA) scored five goals to lead the USA on offense while goalkeeper Betsey Armstrong (USA) posted eight saves, including a penalty shot stop, to anchor the defence. Steffens and Armstrong were both named to the Olympic All-Star Team with Steffens leading the tournament in scoring with 21 goals.

For the USA it was the crowning effort of years of endeavour and heartache, losing a last-gasp final at Sydney 2000, taking bronze at Athens 2004 and then letting the gold medal again slip away at the Beijing Olympic Games. For Brenda Villa and Heather Petri - one-goal scorers in the final - it was just reward for a lifetime's commitment and a special place in history with gold, two silvers and a bronze each from four Olympic Games.   

The manner in which USA won gold after trailing by a goal in the first quarter was storybook. Spain struck first with 5:32 in the period to grab a 1-0 lead. It wasn't until :50 left in the period that the USA broke through on a power play score from Maggie Steffens, evening the match at 1-1. That was the score headed into the second period.

Things opened up offensively after that with Spain scoring the first goal of the period on a power play to go up 2-1. Heather Petri (USA) scored on a lob shot to the tie the game at 2-2. That was followed by another goal from Maggie Steffens on a dish from sister Jessica Steffens (USA) and the red, white, and blue took their first lead at 3-2. Melissa Seidemann (USA) added with a power play goal of her own for a 4-2 lead with 4:04 remaining in the first half. The scoring closed out with another from Steffens, this time out of two meters, for a 5-2 lead. Armstrong halted a shot by Spain in the final seconds of the period and the United States led by three at the break.

In the third quarter, the United States dominated on defence, keeping Spain off the board. Steffens took the score to 6-2 and 8-2 as the Spanish watched, but were never defeated. In the fourth quarter, the USA completed a 7-0 run that blew the game open. Spain would try to rally over the remainder of the period. Jennifer Pareja (ESP) was doing her job at the other end scoring the first three goals for her team. At 8-3, Spain, playing in front of Spain's Crown Prince Felipe, were not down as Anni Espar (ESP), who had 13 goals before the final, sent two more into the net, but it was too little, too late. The United States would do the job the rest of the way on defence allowing Spain's final goal, with :54 left. The USA ended their campaign as Olympic Games champions by a final score of 8-5.

The USA celebrations were long and loud. The support for the Spanish was also justifiably proud as a young team fighting the odds and producing magnificent water polo all tournament. Four of the gold-medal finalists were named in the all-star team - Steffens and USA goalkeeper Betsy Armstrong; Spanish players Espar and Pareja. They were joined by Australians Holly Lincoln-Smith and Nicola Zagame and also Hungarian centre forward Barbara Bujka.

Spain's head coach Miguel Oca was proud of his team winning the silver medal: "This is a historic achievement. This is our first Olympic Games and we have won the silver medal. We are happy with silver, although we were going for the gold medal. But the US team were physically much stronger this time."

Spanish player Maica Garcia was asked about her feelings: "Disappointed, we hoped for more of an even match, but they were too strong." Spanish teammate Ona Meseguer asked her feelings about the match: "I feel sad, but happy we achieved a silver medal." Spanish player Pilar Pena on how they have got to this point: "Mickey (Miguel Oca - head coach) took us to the top." On winning silver: "I'm happy we achieved the silver medal. The silver is a good consolation prize."

USA head coach Adam Krikorian was asked about being thrown into the pool by his players at the conclusion of the match: "It's never getting old. This feeling is incredible. I'm speechless." On when did he feel they had won the final: "Only with about 30 seconds to go. I was so focused today, I was still annoyed with myself about what I did two days ago (calling an illegal time-out in the semis, awarding a penalty for Australia and a chance for the extra-time). I just told myself to stand there all the way to the very end. I was even upset how we handled the last two minutes." On what made the final a bit one-sided: "I really liked how we played five-men defence. We got some momentum there defensively, and once we got that it's tough to get the ball past us. We played with a lot of heart, that was it."

USA veteran player Brenda Villa, the owner of a gold (won today), two silvers and one bronze medals was asked about how it feels to win the Olympic gold medal and whether this will be her final Olympics: "I am speechless, it still hasn't sunk in. We played great defence today and that is what won us the medal. There are no words to explain how I'm feeling, but to go through the last four years with the players who were in Beijing and the new players here, like Maggie (Steffens), it means the world to me, I can't describe it. It's the end of a journey and I got my fairy-tale ending." Villa discussed her teammate Maggie Steffens' performance in the tournament: "She's a phenomenal player, but I think the anchor of our team is (our goalkeeper) Betsey (Armstrong) - no one wants to shoot against her. As for Maggie, she's a great talent and I am looking forward to watching her for the next 10 years." Heather Petri, the other veteran player of the USA team who owns one gold (won today), two silver and one bronze medals, was asked about being a four-time Olympian with a full set of medals: "It's awesome, I can't believe it - I'm so proud of the team." On scoring a rare goal (for her) in the final at London 2012: "(Crying and laughing) I'm so happy, it doesn't matter who scores. I was there and it was great to put the ball in the net."

Courtney Mathewson (USA) - on how she feels winning the gold: "Incredible. I can't even describe in words. It's been our focus for so long, I'm actually speechless." On what veterans Heather Petri and Brenda Villa said to the team before the match: "Do what you do. We train day after day. I know it's the Olympics, but you have to treat it like just another game."

Referees: DESLIERES Marie (CAN) STAVRIDIS Georgios (GRE)
Delegate: DR MARTIN Gyorgy (HUN) FIROIU Niculae (GER)

London, England - August 9 - The U.S. Olympic Women's Water Polo Team won their first ever Olympic gold medal tonight with an 8-5 defeat of Spain in the championship match of the 2012 Olympic Games. Maggie Steffens (Danville, CA/Stanford/Diablo) scored five goals to lead Team USA on offense while Betsey Armstrong (Ann Arbor, MI/Michigan/NYAC) posted eight saves, including a penalty shot stop, to anchor the defense. Steffens and Armstrong were both named to the Olympic All-Star Team with Steffens leading the tournament in scoring with 21 goals. The gold medal is the first in team history for the USA Women and is added to a collection that includes two silver medals (2000,2008) and a bronze medal (2004).

The first quarter was low on offense as each team's defense was able to control the power play. Spain struck first with 5:32 in the period to grab a 1-0 lead. It wasn't until :50 left in the period that Team USA broke through on a power play score from Maggie Steffens, evening the match at 1-1. That was the score headed into the second period.

Things opened up offensively after that with Spain scoring the first goal of the period on a power play to go up 2-1. It was all Team USA moving forward. Heather Petri (Orinda, CA/California/NYAC) scored on a lob shot to the tie the game at 2-2. That was followed by another goal from Maggie Steffens on a dish from sister Jessica Steffens (Danville, CA/Stanford/NYAC) and the red, white, and blue took their first lead at 3-2. Melissa Seidemann (Walnut Creek, CA/Stanford/Stanford) added with a power play goal of her own for a 4-2 lead with 4:04 remaining in the first half. The scoring closed out with another from Steffens, this time out of two meters, for a 5-2 lead. Armstrong halted a shot by Spain in the final seconds of the period and the United States led by three at the break.

In the third the United States dominated on defense keeping Spain off the board. In the meantime Team USA scored two more goals of their own. The first came on a drawn penalty converted by Maggie Steffens and the second was a goal from Brenda Villa (Commerce, CA/Stanford/Olympic Club) for a 7-2 lead after three periods. Early in the fourth Team USA completed a 7-0 run the blew the game open. Armstrong blocked a penalty shot try by Spain and then sent a pass down to a streaking Steffens for a counter attack score and an 8-2 lead with 7:32 to play. Spain would try to rally over the remainder of the period and after scoring twice they closed to within 8-4 with 4:05 remaining. The United States would do the job the rest of the way on defense allowing just one more goal, with :54 left, and Team USA came away Olympic Games champions by a final count of 8-5.

Scoring
USA 8 (1, 4, 2, 1) M. Steffens 5, H. Petri 1, M. Seidemann 1, B. Villa 1
ESP 5 (1, 1, 0, 3) J. Pareja 3, A. Espar Llaquet 2

Saves - USA - B. Armstrong 8 - ESP - L. Ester Ramos 2
6x5 - USA - 1/6 - ESP - 3/10
Penalties - USA 1/1 - ESP - 0/1

FLASH QUOTES

Adam KRIKORIAN (USA) - head coach

On how does it feel talking to the press in wet clothes after winning an Olympic final (he was thrown into the water after the conclusion of the match):

"It's never getting old. This feeling is incredible. I'm speechless."

On when did he feel they had won the final:

"About 30 seconds to go. I was so focused today, I was still pissed with myself about what I did two days ago (calling an illegal time-out in the semis, awarding a penalty for Australia and a chance for the extra-time). So I just told myself to stand there all the way to the very end. And I was even upset how we handled the last two minutes."

On what made the final a bit one-sided:

"I really liked how we played five-men defence. We got some momentum there defensively, and once we got that it's tough to get the ball past us. We played with a lot of heart, that was it."

Brenda VILLA (USA) - gold

On winning the gold medal in what will probably be her final Olympics:

"I am speechless, it still hasn't sunk in. We played great defence today and that is what won us the medal. There are no words to explain how I'm feeling, but to go through the last four years with the players who were in Beijing and the new players here, like Maggie (STEFFENS), it means the world to me, I can't describe it. It's the end of a journey and I got my fairytale ending."

On Maggie STEFFENS' performance in the tournament:

"She's a phenomenal player, but I think the anchor of our team is (our goalkeeper) Betsey (ARMSTRONG) - no one wants to shoot against her. As for Maggie, she's a great talent and I am looking forward to watching her for the next 10 years."

Heather PETRI (USA) - gold

On being a four-time Olympian with a full set of medals:

"It's awesome, I can't believe it - I'm so proud of the team."

On scoring a rare goal (for her) in the final at London 2012:

"(Crying and laughing) I'm so happy, it doesn't matter who scores. I was there and it was great to put the ball in the net."

Courtney MATHEWSON (USA) - gold

On how she feels winning the gold:

"Incredible. I can't even describe in words. It's been our focus for so long, I'm actually speechless."

On what veterans Heather PETRI and Brenda VILLA said to the team before the match:

"Do what you do. We train day after day. I know it's the Olympics, but you have to treat it like just another game."

Greg Mescall
Associate Director of Communications
USA Water Polo

USA Wins Gold

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