World Championships, Women’s Water Polo: U.S. Survives Australia; Netherlands Dethroned

Photo Courtesy: Andrea Staccioli / Deepbluemedia / Insidefoto

World Championships, Women’s Water Polo: U.S. Survives Australia; Netherlands Dethroned

There will be a new world champion in Doha. Thanks to Maddie Musselman and Ashleigh Johnson, it might yet be the United States.

Musselman scored three times, and Johnson made 10 saves as the U.S. built a big lead and withstood a push by Australia late in a 10-9 win in the quarterfinals of the World Aquatics Championships in Doha on Monday.

The first installment of a wild day of quarterfinals, the U.S. survived its scare while reigning world champ Netherlands fell to Hungary, 13-12, in the shootout.

The U.S. will play Spain, a 12-9 winner over Canada, in Wednesday’s semifinals. Hungary meets Greece, a 14-12 winner over Italy.

The U.S. lost in this round (to Italy) during the last World Championships, consigning it to no better than fifth. Determined to avoid that fate this time around, the Americans started fast, leading 5-3 at half and 10-4 in the fourth quarter.

They would need all of those goals when Australia scored the game’s final five goals. The Aussies even had a look at goal on a final possession with seven seconds left, but a shot by Bronte Halligan was blocked.

Musselman led the offense with three goals on 3-for-4 shooting. Maggie Steffens scored twice and handed out three assists. Jenna Flynn had two goals. The U.S. was just 4-for-8 on power plays and 4-for-19 on action shots against Australia’s solid defense, backstopped by Gabriella Palm’s eight saves.

It was the offense that wasn’t working early for Australia. Jewel Roemer scored with 5:51 left in the game to give the U.S. a 10-4 edge. To that point, Australia had shot just 4-for-22. Abby Andrews and Sienna Green each scored both of their goals in the closing spurt. Zoe Arancini added two goals, as did Alice Williams.

The eight quarterfinalists in Doha are identical to Fukuoka, when the Netherlands beat Spain for the title and Italy topped Australia for bronze. A year later, only Spain repeats in the semis.

Hungary and the Netherlands were locked in a tight battle, Hungary leading 5-4 after three quarters. Greta Gurisatti made it 8-6 Hungary with 3:21 to play, but Bente Rogge answered with a power-play tally. After Laura Aarts saved two shots by Hungary, Maartje Keuning scored with eight seconds left to tie the game at 8. Aarts added another of her 15 saves with two seconds left.

The first nine shooters all converted in the shootout until Alda Magyari stoned Lieke Rogge to send the Hungarians on.

Rita Keszthelyi led Hungary with four goals. Dorottya Szilagyi scored twice to go with two assists. Gurisatti and Krisztina Garda added two goals each. Magyari stopped seven shots.

Sabrina van der Sloot, Simone van de Kraats, Bente Rogge, Lieke Rogge and Lola Moolhuijzen scored twice each for the Dutch.

Spain led 7-2 at half and eased past Canada, 12-9. Judith Forca scored five goals. Anni Espar pulled the strings with a goal and five assists. Elena Ruiz tallied twice. Martina Terre stopped eight shots.

Axelle Crevier led Canada with a hat trick.

Italy fell into a 3-0 hole in the first quarter and trailed 7-3 at half, never to recover. It got within two twice in the third quarter and early in the fourth, but never got a shot to tie it.

Eirini Ninou scored five goals to lead the Greeks. Vasiliki Plevritou paired two goals with three assists. Eleftheria Plevritou and Margarita Plevritou scored twice each.

Domitilla Picozzi led Italy with three goals and three assists. Dafne Bettini (two assists), Sofia Giustini and Chiara Tabani tallied twice apiece.

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