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SHANGHAI, China, July 17. WOMEN's water polo action kicked off in a strong way with eight matches on the docket for the first day at the 2011 FINA World Championships held in Shanghai.
The two-time defending world champions from the U.S. finished in a surprising tie with The Netherlands, 7-7, in the first preliminary match. Lauren Wenger led the way for the U.S. with a hat trick by going three-for-three. Nienke Jorinda Vermeer matched Wenger with a hat trick of her own for The Netherlands as she went three-for-three as well.
"We played well," USA team captain Brenda Villa said. "[The Netherlands] played well too. We expect that we can play better next game. Shanghai is a fantastic city. The hotel is awesome."
Hungary followed in the next match by whitewashing Kazakhstan, 21-6. Several Hungarians completed a hat trick, with Rita Keszthelyi leading all scorers with a five-for-six effort. Dor Antal, Orsolya Takacs, Rita Dravucz and Barbara Bujka also scored three times each. Darya Vassilyeva and Marina Gritsenko led Kazakhstan with two goals each.
"This is our first game," Hungarian coach Andras Meresz said. "It's difficult and very important. It is not easy for the girls since it's their first day. Our girls are physically strong and they are clever. We are not playing wrestling but water polo. The U.S. and The Netherlands are strong. We'll try to beat one of them. We won the championship in 2005, and it was a great win, but it is history. Our team is young, 3 or 4 are still in university or high school. The world championships are important but the most important for water polo is Olympics. Of course, we have some expectations for the 2012 Olympics."
In match three, Canada downed Australia, 10-7. Canada finished runner-up to the U.S. in the last edition of the world championships in 2009, while Australia took silver to the U.S. in 2007. Canada proved to have a balanced attack today with five players scoring two goals each. Rowena Evelyn Webster paced Australia with two goals as well.
"We came together as a team," Canada's Christine Robinson said. "Everyone played their roles, and we dominated the game. It's a good start. [China] is really very good. We used to train with them in Tianjin and I think they've improved a lot."
Match four featured another thrashing as New Zealand put up a 19-6 triumph over Uzbekistan. Kirsten Patricia Hudson turned in a six-for-six performance, while Lauren Jane Sieprath also had a hat trick with a three-for-seven outing for New Zealand. Ramilya Halikova checked in with a hat trick on three-for-eight shooting in the loss for Uzbekistan.
Russia dominated Brazil, 15-4, in match five. Olga Belyaeva tallied four goals to lead all scorers. Sofia Konukh and Evgenia Soboleva also had hat tricks for Russia. Four different players scored for Brazil.
Match six produced a 10-9 victory for Greece over Spain. Alexandra Asimaki and Angeliki Gerolymou posted hat tricks for Greece in the win, while Bianca Gil Sorli's three-spot for Spain could not gain the Spaniards the win.
Italy tripled up Cuba in match seven, 12-4. Simona Abbate, Martina Savioli and Roberta Bianconi all collected hat tricks for Italy, while Hirovis Hernandez Consuegra and Danay Gutierrez More both tallied two goals each for Cuba.
China blitzed South Africa in the eighth and final match of the day, 22-5, much to the enjoyment of the partisan crowd. Ma Huanhuan connected on six-of-12 shooting to outscore South Africa by herself. Sun Yating and Wang Yi also notched hat tricks. Kelsey White and Jemma Dendy Young each posted two goals for South Africa.
"We played to our normal level and never felt nervous," Sun said. "The crowd is great and hailed us a lot. It made us very excited."