Louis Daignault (ISN)
July 25, 2013, Barcelona (ISN) – Canada’s senior women water polo team proved they should not be counted out of the 2013 FINA World Championships in Barcelona, ending their last game of the preliminary round in an 8-8 tie with the current titleholders from Greece.
The Canadians bounced back from a 10-8 loss against the 2012 Olympic gold medal winning U.S.A. on July 23, and played a much stronger defensive game on Thursday against their European counterparts.
Joelle Bekhazi, from Montreal, was Canada’s first scorer in the first quarter and had another point later in the game. Monika Eggens, of Pitt Meadows, B.C., was her team’s standout offensive leader, registering four goals during the match. Krystina Alogbo and Katrina Monton also both contributed a point for Canada.
The match had started shakily for the Canadians with their opponents taking a three point lead early in the first quarter. Things seemed to even out following Bekhazi’s goal and, despite missing a penalty shot after hitting the post, the team was back on track. By the time the period was over, Katrina Monton had scored another goal for Canada and Greece’s advantage was reduced to a one point lead, 3-2.
“We were prepared for Greece’s strategy of slowing down the game in order to get the upper hand,” Bekhazi said. “We had to take that away from them and set our own pace,” she said.
In the second period, it was a goal from captain Krystina Alogbo who evened out the score before a shot from the 5 metre line by Monika Eggens gave Canada its first lead in the game. The reply from Greece came in the form of three consecutive goals and the quarter ended with Greece leading once again, 6-4.
The Canadian determination was unaffected and they regained control in the third quarter. They added another three goal and, thanks to a strong defense and some key saves by goalie Michèle Relton, they kept the Greeks away from the scoresheet and built a thin one goal lead. It was 7-6 at the end of the third.
“From a defensive perspective, everybody did their part to help out, which made my job a lot easier,” said Relton. “It felt like the game flowed well. We would get a block and then we would counter and hope to tire them out as the end of the game approached.”
The final period saw Greece rally and score two consecutive goals. This could have given them the victory had Monika Eggens not found the back of the net for the fourth time in the last minute of play and secured the final 8-8 tie.
“We had a feeling we were going to come back in the game. There was a good vibe with the team,” said Eggens, whose older sister Carmen is also a member of the Canadian squad in Barcelona. “After we got our momentum back, we never gave up and we pushed until the end,” she said.
The sixteen teams entered in the 2013 World Championship’s women’s tournament will play a crossover game on Saturday, July 27, in order to determine which eight countries will advance to the quarterfinal round. Canada is scheduled to meet Kazakhstan at 6:50 p.m. in Barcelona (1:50 p.m. EDT).