GWANGJU, South Korea (Team Canada) – Canada clinched first place in Group A in women’s waterpolo on Tuesday, completing the preliminary round with a 15-11 win over Japan (2-2) and a 4-0 record.
“It was definitely an intense game and it was very physical, but we kept our heads and came out with the win,” said Kelly McKee of Calgary, Alta., who was with Team Canada in 2013 at the Kazan Games when the team finished fourth. “We’re excited that we finished first in our pool and it’s giving us confidence going to the next step of the tournament.”
Using timely double-teams, Canada was able to steal the ball out of Japan’s hands several times in the first quarter and took a 2-1 lead on a lobbed shot by Kyra Christmas of High River, Alta. (University of the Pacific). Christmas was one of four Canadians to score three goals in the game.
The Japanese defence at the mid-pool zone was tight, often forcing Canada late into the shot clock. A stretching save by Nicola Colterjohn (McMaster University) kept the score at 4-2 at the end of the first quarter. Both of Japan’s early goals came on power play.
The Canadian lead grew to 8-4 when Kelly Matthews of Roxboro, Que., potted her second straight goal at the 1:32 mark. Colterjohn continued her steady play, and Sarah Myers (Toronto, Ont.) and Taylor Molde (Weyburn, Sask.) sprinted down the pool for another quick score and a 9-4 halftime lead.
Japan’s counter-attack struck with a breakaway goal to make it 12-8 with 5:44 to play and although Japan closed the gap to within three, Canada shut down the long passes and executed on power plays to finish the game in control at 15-11. The final Japanese goal came with one second remaining on a deflection from half.
Canada will now play either France (1-2) or Hungary (0-3) in the crossover with Group B when the quarterfinal round begins on July 9.