National women’s water polo team secures silver medal at FINA Intercontinental Tournament
The U.S.A. national women’s water polo team made its way to Davis, Calif. last week in an out-of-the-ordinary appearance to face five other international teams trying to claim the gold medal in the FINA Intercontinental Tournament at the Schaal Aquatics Center from May 2 to 7.
Greg Mescall, the director of communications for U.S.A. Water Polo, said that the organization looks for various factors when choosing the venue for tournaments of this caliber.
“First, for a facility that can hold an event, has to have a certain size pool, stands, can support practices,” Mescall said. “Davis checked all those boxes and is a water polo community that appreciates high level water polo. When you have all of that together, it is a slam dunk to come to a place like this.”
The FINA Water Polo League is the world’s first global league; it brings national water polo teams from around the world to compete in preliminary-round tournaments with the goal of advancing to the FINA Water Polo World League Super Final. The winner of the Super Final will earn the World League title and the largest share of the competition’s prize money. This year, the Super Final is held in Shanghai, China. As host, China automatically advances, leaving Kazakhstan, Canada, Japan, U.S. and Australia to play for the the top four spots that will advance to the Super Final.
Team U.S.A. headed into the championship game going undefeated in the round-robin play, where every team in the tournament faces each other at least once, to earn its its spot in the finals. U.S.A. previously won the tournament in 2016, beating Australia 6-5. However, only two of the players who competed in the 2016 Rio Olympics were on the 13-woman roster, the others being absent because the tournament coincided with their collegiate season. With a Team U.S.A. mainly comprised of young teenage standouts, this tournament seemed to be about building chemistry for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.
Team Australia came into the championship game winning every game in round-robin play, except one on May 6, when Australia lost 9-7 in a shootout to the U.S. Going into the championship on May 7, it was a hard-fought rematch of the previous day and the previous year between Team U.S.A. and Team Australia, and Team U.S.A. took the hard fought loss, 10-7.
“I take away a lot,” said Bayley Weber of U.S.A. “Teamwork and the way we came together despite our loss. I feel like we had better chemistry even though we didn’t put away our opportunities, but as a team I feel like we grew a lot and learned a lot more.”
The game started off strong for Team U.S.A., which won initial possession. However, shortly into the first period of play, Australia’s Elle Armit put one into the back of the net at the 7:14 mark, giving it the 1-0 lead. At the 4:13 mark in the same period, Armit made another goal, extending Australia’s lead 2-0.
At 6:51 in the second period, Armit scored her third for Australia. Less than a minute later, Team U.S.A. equalized, and continued to shrink the deficit at the 1:25 mark, as Jewel Roemer placed a stunning goal at the five-meter mark to bring the score to 3-2.
On a power play for the U.S. in the third, Aria Fischer scored at the 5:38 mark, tying the game at 3-3. Australia’s Rowie Webster matched goals shortly after to give Australia the 4-3 lead. On an even-strength goal around the two meter mark that same period, Keesja Gofers extended Team Australia’s lead 5-3, which increased to three after a penalty shot was scored by Webster at 2:18 in the third.
Headed into the fourth period, Team U.S.A. did not seem disheartened, as Paige Hauschild earned one for the U.S., bringing the score to 6-4 (7:18). Roemer scored a penalty shot at the 6:30 mark to shrink Australia’s lead to one. Continuing on a back-and-fourth goal scoring, Hannah Buckling added one more to Australia’s score at 6:05 for 7-5 in Australia’s favor. After two unanswered goals by Team U.S.A. at the 4:50 and 3:04 marks, the game was all tied up at 7-7. Armit scored her fourth goal of the game for Australia, giving it the one goal lead with less than two minutes remaining. After a lobbed goal at the five-meter mark, the lead for Team Australia extended to 9-7, and at the 0:03 second mark, Gofers put the final seal on the game with a goal. The three late goals by Australia proved too much to come back for U.S.A., taking the hard-fought loss 10-7.
Before the medal ceremony, individual players received awards for their performance throughout the week. The top scorer award went to Australia’s Webster, with 18 goals in the tournament. Best goalkeeper went to Jessica Gaudreault of Canada and Seidemann of the U.S.A. received the MVP award.
Canada was awarded the third-place medal, defeating Japan 5-2 in the third place match. Team U.S.A. took home the silver and Australia’s win earned them the gold. These top four teams will meet China, Hungary, Russia and the Netherlands, which previously qualified in the Women European Preliminaries, in the World League Women Super Final in Shanghai, taking place from June 6 to 11 later this year.
“We take a ton of things from this,” said head coach Adam Krikorian of Team U.S.A. “The key is what they take from this and hopefully they learned a lot. Hopefully the learning doesn’t stop and I am very happy with how the team listens, how receptive they were and how much they competed. I can’t thank Davis and the community enough. Everyone is so friendly and helpful and it just makes it fun to be here, and I can’t thank everyone enough.”
Written by: Ryan Bugsch — firstname.lastname@example.org