Canada Completes Undefeated Romp to 2018 UANA Gold With 12-9 Win Over Brazil

Canadians take the plunge after winning UANA gold. Photo Courtesy: Don Utas

By Michael Randazzo, Swimming World Contributor

CLEARWATER, FL. After opening the match with a suffocating five goal run that left their opponents gasping for breath, on Sunday the Canadian Junior Women’s Team was forced to beat back a ferocious comeback by Brazil to capture gold at the 2018 UANA Junior Pan American Championships.

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Photo Courtesy: UANA

First period scores in dizzying succession by tournament MVP Blair McDowell, Myriam Lozotte, Brianna Utas, Lizotte again and then McDowell put the Brazilians in a hole that they couldn’t quite dig themselves out, despite clawing back to within a single score before dropping a 12-9 decision.

After the match, Canada Head Coach David Paradelo praised his girls as “fantastic” in responding to Brazil’s comeback bid.

“We fell behind in momentum in the third quarter, and Brazil took advantage of that,” he said, dripping wet from a celebratory dip in the Long Center pool. “In the end, we had a better pace of the game.”

In defeat, Brazil Assistant Coach Emerson Martins lamented that early miscues cost his young team dearly in this title match.

“Little mistakes at the beginning of the games led to scores against us but then the team put it together and started to play correctly,” he said of the third period rally. “On a mistake, we let in a goal when it’s 9-8—that breaks our sequence.”

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Canadians leave no openings for Brazil Photo Courtesy: Don Utas

Intense pressure to open the match

As they had in a 19-9 drubbing of the U.S. in Saturday’s semifinal, the Canadians opened by exerting extreme pressure on both ends of the pool. Their opportunistic offense blitzed Brazil goalie Thatiana Pergolini—named the tournament’s top girl netminder—with goals on five of their first seven possessions.

On defense, Canada was relentless in front of its cage, allowing only two shots to get through to goalie Marianne Bouchard-Cote and blanking their opponents until Leticia Belorio finally broke through twice in the final minute of the first period to cut the deficit to 5-2.

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Canada’s Blair McDowell, 2018 UANA Cup MVP. Photo Courtesy: Don Utas

In the next frame, the Canadians again picked up the tempo, scoring three goals—McDowell at 6:52, Valeria Rojas converting a five-meter penalty at 4:55 and then Floranne Carroll converting with three minutes to go—before Brazil broke through with a minute left and Brazil on a power play. That goal—Brazil’s first with the man advantage, made the score 8-3 at the half, and also was the start of a string of scores that brought the South American squad to within a goal of catching their northern rival.

Change in tactics changes complexion of the match

A tactical change to start the third quarter bore immediate fruit for Brazil, as they switched from a press defense to dropping an extra player on the Canadian set, creating counter attack opportunities. Ana Beatriz Diaz, Brazil’s 14-year-old phenom, scored a minute into the third period from in front of the Canadian cage, then hit from long range at the 5:40 mark, quieting a pro-Canada crowd in the Long Center stands.

Daphne Guevremont scored thirty seconds later to increase Canada’s lead to four, but Pereira tallied her third goal of the game with four minutes remaining to again make it a three-goal game. A minute later Ana Julia Batista just missed beating Bouchard-Cote in front, but the Brazilian fans finally found their voices after Kemily Leao scored on a breakaway with seconds left in the period, cutting the Canadian lead to two.

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Canadian goalie Marianne Bouchard-Cote stands up to pressure. Photo Courtesy: Don Utas

Paradelo’s team—undefeated all week in Clearwater—proved up to the task of closing out an opponent in the fourth quarter. Two minutes in, Diaz completed her hat-trick to make it a one goal game, but Floranne Carroll—who like many top polo players has her sights on Stanford—fought off a defender and deftly tipped a shot over Pregolini to quell the Brazilian comeback. And when Guevremont broke free in front to convert a power play opportunity, the Canadians could sense that all their hard work would result in a golden payoff.

Belorio scored at the three-minute mark to again cut Brazil’s deficit to two, but McDowell notched her fourth tally of the game with two minutes left to close out the scoring and ensure her team’s victory.

Looking to the future

Both teams qualified for the 2019 FINA Junior World Championships next summer in Portugal, and are eager to move on to higher-level play against European opponents in the run-up to the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.

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Good times in Cleawater. Photo Courtesy: Don Utas

“We only had a few weeks to prepare for this tournament so we’ll have time to get ready for next year,” Paradelo said. “It’s great to see what they can achieve in order to get on the senior national team. It’s fantastic to have the bridge between the age group programs and the Olympic team.

Martins was optimistic about his young team’s continued progress in international play.

“Some of the girls come from families that play water polo so they have quickly development,” he said. “People don’t imagine but in Brazil we work a lot and its good girls. They have heart and play hard. That’s the reason they are getting better in water polo.”

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Author: Michael Randazzo

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Michael Randazzo is a freelance contributor at Swimming World focusing on water polo. He covers polo all over the United States for SW and other publications, including the Collegiate Water Polo Association, Skip Shot, The New York Times, Total Water Polo, Water Polo Planet and others. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife and two children and roots for St. Francis Brooklyn polo.

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