Tokyo 2020 Recap: Women’s Water Polo Quarter Final – Australia vs ROC

In a gut-wrenching loss, Gabriella Palm was a stand-out for Australia, making countless crucial saves. Picture: @AUSOlympicTeam

Australia will not be competing for a Water Polo medal in Tokyo 2020 as the Stingers fell to a resilient ROC side, losing by a single goal in the Quarter Final. For all your Tokyo 2020 coverage, stay tuned to The Inner Sanctum’s Olympic hub and the Olympics Central.

Stingers seek Semi-final

It was crunch-time for these two strong Water Polo sides, with both looking to replicate past glories here at Tokyo 2020. The Quarter Final is the gateway to a medal, meaning it was essentially win or go home for both teams.

ROC won the swim-off and immediately, Gabriella Palm was busy, saving a stinger of a shot from the first possession.

The Aussies hit back with chances of their own and an exclusion against ROC, but it was Keesja Gofers who opened the scoring with no exclusion necessary, scoring from long range to put Australia 1-0 up.

It was a frantic start for two teams who, through the group stage, had been difficult to score against.

ROC equalised fairly swiftly, scoring on the next possession through Simanovich and it was back to an even scoreline once again.

Some strong ball movement during an ROC exclusion regained Australia the lead, Zoe Arancini adding to her tournament tally that was growing with every game.

Under plenty of pressure early but standing up to it, it was obvious that it was going to need to be something special to beat Palm in the Australian goal, but special it was from Prokofyeva who lobbed it over beautifully to bring it back to level pegging.

With two minutes to go in the first, the ROC grabbed the lead, Serzhantova sneaking it past Palm’s near post, the score now 3-2.

As the old saying goes, ‘one brings two’, and suddenly ROC had doubled its lead, an exclusion leading to Glyznia finding the net, the fourth different goal-scorer for the ROC so far.

With the first quarter finishing at 4-2, everyone had a chance to catch their breath after what was a frenetic opening.

Australia certainly had its chances but a combination of lacklustre finishing and terrific form from Karnaukh in net for ROC meant that the Stingers went into the break two goals down.

Gabriella Palm was also in fine form early, ROC’s four goals much less than what it could have been were it not for some fantastic saves.

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ROC saves making waves

ROC again won the swim-off to kick off the quarter but the Aussies got the goal they needed, Rowie Webster stealing the ball in the middle of the pool and Amy Ridge finishing from close range, her fourth of the campaign.

Ridge broke-even in seconds, immediately giving away a penalty to ROC which Glyzina converted, meaning Ridge’s goal was cancelled out and ROC’s two goal cushion returned.

Aussie skipper Rowie Webster was having some sort of game on the defensive end, picking up another steal in the midst of an ROC attack.

Buckling, following her captains lead, also picked up a much needed steal after ROC were looking dangerous during an exclusion to Zoe Arancini and immediately launched a counter attack.

The Aussies hit the post but retained possession and suddenly, an ROC exclusion gave them a one person advantage but again, the Stingers could not convert.

It was quickly becoming a physical affair, Arancini’s exclusion coming after she took great exception to some close ROC attention and lashed out with her arm.

Stingers coach, Predran Mihailovic, was not too pleased with the lack of foul calls for his team, who continued to trail late in the half, though it was a tight game so far.

Eventually, the Aussies scored from close range, courtesy of Elle Armit and the margin was back to one goal.

Again, though, ROC answered quickly, an exclusion against Bronwyn Knox giving ROC a golden opportunity against one less player which they took advantage of.

Mihailovic was incensed at this point, one of his complaints gaining him a yellow card courtesy of the referee.

The half finished with the same margin as the end of the first quarter, the ROC remaining in front by two goals, 4-6.

Late surge sees Stingers survive

After a spirited Rowie Webster lead team-talk, the Stingers came out looking to atone for a below-par first half that saw them two goals down.

ROC took first possession but Palm was able to make a commanding save with a strong left hand.

The physicality continued in the third, the white-water in front of goal becoming a feature of the game, even more-so than usual.

Both keepers were having great games, largely contributing to what looked like being a low-scoring affair.

Yet another save by Karnaukh launched an ROC counter attack, leading to the first goal of the third term and extending the ROC lead to three goals.

With time ticking down in the third, the pressure was rising for the Stingers, knowing that another goal from the ROC would mean they have a mountain to climb, but a goal for the Aussies would be equally as important.

With two minutes to go in the third quarter and an extra player for the next possession, Mihailovic called a time-out for Australia and made several attacking substitutions to take advantage.

It didn’t work out, though, the ROC defence standing up in the face of adversity and on the next possession launched an attack of its own.

Simanovich scored from the attack, her second of the game and the ROC margin had grown to four, their total of eight goals doubling Australia’s eight.

An exclusion gave Australia a much needed lifeline, Matilda Kearns scoring from close range to reduce the deficit.

ROC tried to answer immediately, like they have multiple times this match, but Gabby Palm was once again up to the task, saving from a venomous shot but the ball would be retained by the ROC and it was ROC’s turn to take a time-out.

With mere seconds left on the clock, Bronte Halligan brought the Aussies back to within striking distance, firing in an absolute rocket from long range.

The siren sounded to signal the end of the quarter and once again, it was a two goal margin in favour of the ROC heading into the final term.

Sink or swim

Australia had all the momentum leading into the last and the carried into the swim-off, Amy Ridge winning the Stingers’ first of the match.

Ridge followed that up with a steal on the ROC’s first possession, the Aussies starting the quarter with plenty of energy.

A Stingers exclusion gave ROC a shot from close range, but Palm was again tremendous, making herself big in the Aussie goal and saving with her chest.

As good has Australia had started, though, the ROC was matching it. The ROC defence was proving an issue for Australia, the Stingers succumbing to two shot-clock violations early in the last quarter.

Zoe Arancini gave away an exclusion in frustration in the Aussie attacking end, causing ROC to take another time-out as they looked to land a knockout blow, the margin remaining at two goals.

Two became three as the time-out worked to perfection, ROC able to move the Aussie defence around and fashion a chance for Serzhantova who scored with ease.

At 6-9 with five minutes to play, the Stingers needed goals and they needed them quickly. Luckily, Elle Armit was once again on hand to keep them in it, scoring her second of the match and reducing the margin back to two goals.

Australia worked hard to cover yet another exclusion but in doing so, gave away a penalty to the ROC. In the process, Aussie coach Mihailovic received a red card for his complaints and was evicted from the pool.

With the match on the line, Gabby Palm again stood up as she had all game, saving the penalty and giving Australia one last chance.

With 90 seconds to play, the Aussies drove forward but again, Anna Karnaukh pulled out a phenomenal save, keeping her side in front by two goals.

One minute remained and Australia called a final time-out, looking to throw everything into this final minute of play to keep their medal hopes alive.

Out of the time-out, Bronwyn Knox took aim but missed the target from long range and with just 30 seconds remaining, it was all over in favour of the ROC.

Bronte Halligan gave Australia one last dying hope, finding the net with 15 seconds to play, but it was not to be, the ROC maintaining possession for the final 10 seconds, winning the match by a solitary goal.

The win sees the ROC go through to the Semi-final, giving them a chance to compete for a spot on the podium.

For the Stingers, the tournament rolls on with pride still to play for as they battle it out in the ranking games to finish as high as possible.

Australia will no doubt look back on the tournament as a missed opportunity, but upon reflection there is plenty to look forward to for fans of the Stingers.

They played some breath-taking Water Polo in the group stages, culminating in a high finish and though a number of experienced players may only have one Olympics left in them, the youth coming through is clearly talented.

Zoe Arancini and Bronte Halligan were clear standouts all tournament on the offensive end and Palm’s performance in goal against the ROC will live long in the memory of those watching.

Australia will rue missed chances offensively but there is no doubt that both keepers were their side’s best players and on another day, the Stingers could be in a Semi-final spot.

The ROC, though, deservedly take the victory and will face the United States on Thursday for a spot in the elusive gold medal match.

Women’s Water Polo Final Score:

Australia 8 (Armit, Halligan 2, Gofers, Ridge, Arancini, Kearns 1)

ROC 9 (Serzhantova, Simanovich, Glyzina 2, Bersneva, Prokokfyeva, Ivanova 1)

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