US women take water polo streak to 69 while Aussie Sharks put bite on US men

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US skipper Maggie Steffens in control against the Aussie Stingers in the opening women's water polo Test Match in Brisbane. Photo: Water Polo Australia (Harvpix)

Olympic champions the USA have stretched their winning streak to 69 with a thrilling 10-9 victory over a spirited Australian Stingers side to win the first of three women’s water polo Test matches at the Brisbane Aquatic Centre tonight.

While in a heart-stopping men’s Test the Aussie Sharks came back to beat the USA 13-12 despite a final second shot from Jacob Ehrhardt bouncing off the cross bar and out, denying the vistors a draw.

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POWERPLUS: Australia’s Joe Kayes shows the power that saw him net four goals. Photo Courtesy: Water Polo Australia (Harvpix).

In front of a vocal sellout crowd of 3000 people, the reigning women’s World and Olympic champions dominated the opening stanza of the final quarter, increasing their lead to 10-6 after goals to captain Maggie Steffens who converted a five metre penalty before Maddie Mussleman scored one of the goals match.

But the Aussies still had some sting in their tails and it took a classic close-range shot from captain Rowie Webster and a length of the pool break and a sneaky goal from rookie Abby Andrews to keep the Aussie hopes alive.

When Zoe Arancini scored her third, one goal separated the two teams and with just five seconds left in the match Lena Mihailovic narrowy missed a chance to tie the match up.

The American women hung on to a 4-3 lead at quarter-time with goals to Musselman, the first of two to Aria Fisher, a five metre penalty to Steffens and the fourth to Stephanie Haralabidis.

Zoe Arancini scored the opener for the Stingers, the first of her three goals, while Amy Ridge chipped in with a power shot and Lena Mihailovic leveled early.

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SHOOTIN’ TIME: American Stephanie Haralabidis about to let fly. Photo Courtesy: Water Polo Australia (Harvpix).

The second quarter opened with Hannah Buckling scoring he first of her three goals for the home team before the Olympic champions showed all their class through Mackenzie Fisher (sister of Aria) and Rachel Fattal who bounced the ball off the upright to score.

 

The Americans maintained their two goal advantage to lead 7-5 at half-time but the first half-goal rush dried up with only Mackenzie Fisher and Buckling adding to the score sheet for an 8-6 lead at three-quarter time break.

The men certainly didn’t disappoint with a power plus game from both teams with the Aussies coming back from 7-5 half-time deficit to win a thriller 13-12 with captain Aaron Younger splitting the 12-12 deadlock with a six-on-five goal with 7.4 seconds left on the clock.

But the game still wasn’t over with US goalie Drew Holland allowed out of goals to join his six field players in a new ruling allowing a seven on six with Ehrhardt hitting the cross bar with the ball bouncing out with one second left on the clock – the home team hanging on in a heart-stopper.

It was a physical encounter from the outset with Australian foursome Joe Kayes, Andrew Ford, Nathan Power and Younger, locking horns with their US counterparts Benjamin Hallock, Johnathan Hooper, Maxwell Irving and Alexander Bowen with neither side giving an inch.

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NO QUARTER GIVEN: Australia’s Andrew Ford and the USA’s Max Irving stretching their friendship. Photo Courtesy: Water Polo Australia (Harvpix).

Kayes top scored for the match with four, with his quick shooting nailing two key goals, frustrating the American defence.

The big centre forward capitalised immediately on two extra-man plays, powering home two rocket shots from what looked to be right on the five-metre infringement zone to keep the Sharks in the match.

The game see-sawed in the second half after the home side fought back from a 7-4 deficit to lead 9-8 at three-quarter-time with Lachlan Hollis, Power and a Kayes power flick with 1.3 seconds before the bell.

Both teams then went goal for goal with a Hooper opener followed by a point-blank save by Aussie keeper James Clark from a Hannes Daube shot and a Richie Campbell goal straight after, key turning points to give the Sharks a 10-9 lead.

Irving levelled for the US with a cracking shot from outside seven metres in front before Kayes put the Sharks in front with captain Jesse Smith committing his third foul of the match, leaving the pool for the remainder of the game.

Luca Cupido also drilled one from long range before Kayes leveled for the Sharks at 12-12 and two corner throws and a six-on-five opened the door for Sharks and it was a perfect pass from Aidan Roach to his skipper Younger who slammed it shut with the winning goal.

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EIGHT IS ENOUGH: Captain Aaron Younger opens up for the winning goal. Photo Courtesy: Water Polo Australia (Harvpix).

 

The second Test Matches will be played at the Brisbane Aquatic Centre on Thursday night with the men starting proceedings at 6.30 followed by the women at 8pm with the third and final Tests to be played on Saturday at 5pm (women) and 6.30 (men).

WOMEN

USA 10 (A Fisher 2, M Musselman 2, M Steffens 2, M Fisher, A Williams, S Haralabidis R Fattal goals) defeated AUSTRALIA 9 (Z Arancini 3, H Buckling 2, A Andrews, R Webster, L Mihailovic, A Ridge goals)

Quarter time: USA 4:3; Half-time: USA 6:5; Three-quarter time: USA 8:6

MEN

AUSTRALIA 13 (J Kayes 4, N Power 2, A Younger 2, A Ford, A Roach, L Hollis, B Edwards, R Campbell goals) defeated USA 12 (J Hooper 4, B Hallock 3, B Williams, A Obert, L Cupido, A Bowen, M Irving goals).

Quarter time: USA 3:2; Half-time: USA 7-5; Three-quarter time: AUS 9-8.