LEN Women’s European U15 Water Polo Championships, Kirishi (RUS) – Summary
In the history books Spain will appear as the first-ever winner of the women’s U15 European Water Polo Championships. The Spaniards beat Russia in the penalty-shootout to claim the title while Greece earned the bronze medal in the inaugural edition of this event, held in Kirishi.
1. Spain, 2. Russia, 3. Greece, 4. Netherlands, 5. Italy, 6. Croatia, 7. Hungary, 8. France, 9. Israel, 10. Slovakia, 11. Serbia, 12. Czech Republic, 13. Turkey
Top scorers: Noa de Vries (NED) & Ema Vernoux (FRA), 29 goals each. MVP: Mariona Terre (ESP). Best goalkeeper: Blanca Colominas (ESP).
In the footsteps of their seniors, the young Spain players managed to become European champions after winning a thrilling final over Russia. It was an even game for three periods, then the hosts took an 8-10 lead in 43 seconds. At 9-10 they had four 6 on 5s but the Spanish defence did a great job and with 2:14 to go Elena Ruiz equalised from action for 10-10. And Ruiz became the hero of the shootout: she missed the very first shot but in the following rounds the misses and the goals were equal – so she could step up in the sixth round again, netted her shot then goalie of the tournament Mariona Terre delivered the decisive save to ensure gold for Spain (14-13).
Interestingly, they also won 14-13 in the semis, though in the regular time, against the Netherlands. It was another thriller as Spain was four goals up shortly before halftime and led 12-9 early in the fourth but the Dutch levelled the score at 13-13. There came Ruiz – a key for Spain’s successful march – and converted a penalty 14 seconds from time.
Russia beat Greece in the other semis 12-10 despite some heroics from Foteini Tricha who scored 7 for the Greeks in this game. She then led her team to the third step of the podium as they beat the Netherlands 12-7.
Earlier, the Dutch edged out Hungary in the quarters 11-10, that was the closest contest in that stage. As for the final ranks, those mirror almost the same order as we got used to at other levels with one exception: the Croatians managed to finish 6th, an impressive result from a nation which could never make the top ten in any women’s tournament earlier.
Though their age seemed to be tender, the youngest generation of water polo players staged a competition which reminded everyone of the biggest battles witnessed at elite level. LEN has launched this new age-group event in order to meet the National Federations’ demands to create a competitive environment for these youngsters as this contributes a great deal to their development.
The boys’ U15 championships will begin on 21 July in Burgas (BUL), LEN shall offer free live streaming from each game of that tournament.
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