The Australian women’s water polo team made it through to the semi-finals of the 2015 World Championships with a nail-biting 12-10 penalty shootout win over China in their quarter-final played at Kazan, Russia, last night (Australian time).
The Stingers will meet Olympic, World Cup and World League champions, the US, in one semi-final, while Italy will face 2008 Olympic champions, the Netherlands, in the other semi-final.
Sydney University’s four members of the Australian team, Lea Yanitsas, Hannah Buckling, Keesja Gofers and Bronte Halligan, all figured in the match, with Yanitsas saving a crucial goal in the match proper and another in the shootout.
The Australians fought a dour seven-all draw to force the shootout. The match was tight from the start and Australia played catch-up to be 2-2 before a Zihan Zhao penalty gave China the lead at the first break.
A dour second quarter yielded just the one goal, to China. The next goal came on the first attack of the third period from Ash Southern sitting on the eight-metre mark. But China struck back to hold a two-goal margin again.
Australian captain Bronwen Knox accepted a cross pass and turned it into a goal for 4-5 and Halligan delivered the equaliser from deep right.
Zhang Weiwei regained the lead for China and on the next attack Rowie Webster converted a penalty to level the scores at 6-6.
Song converted an extra-man attack when Australia had two players ejected, but 15 seconds later Glencora McGhie scored from deep right for a 7-7 scoreline. With just 25 seconds on the clock China had one last shot, but Yanitsas made a great save and forced the match in to a penalty shootout.
Australia scored all five shots in the shootout, while China’s sole blemish was Niu’s effort, blocked by Yanitsas in the third rotation. The final blast came from Arancini to claim the semi-final berth.
Stingers coach Greg McFadden said he was disappointed with the performance despite making it through to the semi-finals. “Credit to China, they played fantastic,” he said. “Our extra-man defence was terrible. Our extra-man offence was terrible.”
And his version of the shootout: “You’re never confident. It’s a lottery. It’s terrible to lose a game like that. All the girls stepped up — Bronte Halligan and Zoe Arancini, it was gutsy to take the last shot and she blew it away.”
AUSTRALIA: Lea Yanitsas, Gemma Beadsworth, Hannah Buckling (1), Holly Lincoln-Smith, Keesja Gofers, Bronwen Knox (1), Rowena Webster (1), Glencora McGhie (1), Zoe Arancini (1), Ashleigh Southern (1), Bronte Halligan (1), Nicola Zagame, Kelsey Wakefield. Head Coach: Greg McFadden.
In the men’s championship, Sydney University’s Johnno Cotterill scored some crucial goals to help the Australian Sharks to the quarter-finals. Australia finished second behind Serbia in Group D to stay alive in the title hunt.
Hungary, Croatia, Greece, Canada, USA and Kazakhstan will also contest the quarter-finals in coming days.
Serbia came from two down in the final quarter of their pool match to defeat the Sharks 10-9 and earn a quarter-final berth.
The Aussie men’s team had two goals controversially disallowed at the death and had to be satisfied with second in the group. Australia and Montenegro finished tied on points after a 5-5 draw between them two days earlier, but had the better goal differential.