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Water polo girls undefeated in pool

4 August 2012

WATER POLO: The Australian women’s water polo team are through to the quarter finals undefeated after winning their third group stage game, an 11-8 defeat of previously unbeaten Russia.

Club teammates at Cronulla in Sydney, goalkeeper Alicia McCormack and all-rounder Nicola Zagame were the stars for the Aussie Stingers, combing for a number of goals.

The victory follows the 10-8 win over Italy on Day 3 and the 16-3 thrashing of Great Britain two days ago. Their quarterfinal opponent will be fourth placed team from the other group – China on Day 9 at 8.20pm.

China was second at last year’s FINA World Championships in Shanghai and is a team Australia knows well.

The game against Russia started at an electrifying pace with 10 goals scored in the first quarter – six to the Australians courtesy of a pair to Zagame and strikes to Jane Moran, Bronwen Knox, Gemma Beadsworth and captain Kate Gynther.

McCormack was on fire in goals too, one diving save and providing several pinpoint passes to start counter attacks including one that led to a wonderful goal for Zagame.

The speed of the game slowed in the second quarter and after Russia got a goal back at 4:50, Knox scored her second after a deft one-two with Glencora Ralph and Zagame snared her third in a play that mirrored her counter attack goal a quarter before. McCormack was busy again, repelling wave after wave of Russian attack and providing great service to a streaking Zagame.

Russia scored the only goal of the third period to trail 6-8 leading into the last stanza. Once again McCormack made some miraculous saves and kept the advantage Australia’s way.

Australia won the last quarter too, scoring three goals to two thanks to Zagame, Rowie Webster and Gynther.

Australian head coach Greg McFadden praised McCormack’s performance and her combination with Zagame, calling his ‘keeper’s effort a ‘ten out of ten performance’.

“Alicia played brilliant,” McFadden said. “She really saved our butts a few times there, especially in that first quarter, she had a great game. Nicola Zagame also in attack played a great game for a young girl.

“They both play for the same club so they know each other pretty well.”

McCormack made a number of one on none saves and also warded off many a Russian extra man shot but the 29 year-old veteran of two Olympic Games said she couldn’t have done her job without the help of her teammates.

“I did make some good saves but the team makes it really easy on me,” McCormack said.

“They position themselves where I tell them to go and the ball gets directed towards me. It’s not like I’m going above and beyond what my job is. My job is to stop goals and that’s what I did.”

McFadden also said he could see areas Australia could improve for the next game.

“We’ve finished first in our group, we’ve won all our games and that’s what we’re here to do,” he said.

“Now we’ve got to prepare for China. Hopefully we need to be a little bit more composed. We allowed Russia to get back into the game. They play a risky game and we didn’t cover ourselves well.

“We’ve got to look a little bit more at our defence....we’ve just got to adjust a few things.”

The next Australian game is on Day 8 between the men’s team, the Aussie Sharks and group heavyweights Croatia at 11.20am.

Dave Lyall in London
Olympics.com.au

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