Canada's water polo women ousted at worlds by the Netherlands in Round of 16

·5 min read
Shae la Roche, left, scored one of Canada's seven goals in an 11-7 loss to Sabrina van der Sloot and the Netherlands in Round of 16 play on Sunday at the world aquatics championships in Budapest, Hungary. (Szilard Koszticsak/MTI via The Associated Press - image credit)
Shae la Roche, left, scored one of Canada's seven goals in an 11-7 loss to Sabrina van der Sloot and the Netherlands in Round of 16 play on Sunday at the world aquatics championships in Budapest, Hungary. (Szilard Koszticsak/MTI via The Associated Press - image credit)

Canada was eliminated Sunday from the women's water polo tourney at the world aquatics championships by the Netherlands, a third-period collapse its undoing for a second consecutive game in Budapest, Hungary.

The Dutch snapped a 3-3 tie in the Round of 16 match with six goals in the third on the way to an 10-7 win and quarter-final berth.

On Thursday, the top-ranked Hungarians held a 5-4 lead over Canada after two periods before blanking their opponent 4-0 in the third of an 11-7 victory in the final group match for both squads.

The No. 6 Canadians, who haven't medalled at worlds since capturing silver in 2009, were attempting to build off their seventh-place performance in Tokyo last summer, the team's first Olympic appearance in 16 years.

"We're at the world stage, we want to win every single game and go one game at a time," head coach David Paradelo told CBC Sports recently. "We've been building the program for two and a half years now. We have a good returning squad from the last [Olympic] quad."

Dealing with adversity, Paradelo said, was the biggest lesson learned by his team at the Olympic tournament.

Balanced attack

In Budapest, each time Canada sagged in the third period it fought back to outscore the opposition in the fourth: 3-2 against Hungary and 2-1 versus the Dutch.

The Canadians displayed a balanced attack on Sunday with seven players scoring goal — Axelle Crevier, Verica Bakoc, Shae La Roche, Gurpreet Sohi, Kindred Paul, Kyra Christmas and Emma Wright.

Bakoc is a 22-year-old driver who showed promise in exhibition matches against the Netherlands while Paradelo leaned on Christmas and Wright, both left-handers and teammates on the 2020 Olympic club, for leadership.

Christmas of High River, Alta., is fresh off winning the Euro League title with Olympiacos in Greece while Wright, a centre from Lindsay, Ont., recently completed her American collegiate career in the NCAA with University of California, Berkeley.

Canada entered the world tourney minus some key veterans as driver Joelle Bekhazi and goaltender Claire Wright have retired and captain Monika Eggens is taking the summer off.

However, the Canadians impressed in Budapest and took charge in their opener with a 22-2 drubbing of Colombia, which allowed a combined 88 goals over three contests in group play.

The Canadians then tied No. 10 Italy, rebounding from a 4-2 deficit after the first period.

Calgary's McKay in 10m platform final

In diving, Caeli McKay was the lone Canadian in action Sunday and qualified third for the women's 10-metre platform final on Monday.

The 22-year-old amassed 336.30 points in the semifinals behind the Chinese duo of Yuxi Chen (427.00) and Hongchan Quan (413.70) after placing sixth (320.35) in the preliminaries earlier in the day.

McKay is competing in her first international competition since last year as she continues to work her way back after tearing ligaments in her left ankle. A month before the Olympics last summer, McKay caught her foot between a mat and a box she was jumping from while dryland training at Canadian trials.

She was able to dive at the Olympics in Tokyo and placed fourth with the now-retired Meaghan Benfeito in the 10-metre synchronized event, finishing less than a point out from the podium.

WATCH | 'I haven't had a day without pain since my accident," McKay says:

McKay chose to rest and not to compete at the FINA Grand Prix in her native Calgary earlier this month after finishing second at nationals in May.

"She's still bothered by this foot injury and that's limited the amount of volume she's been able to do," Diving Canada's chief technical officer Mitch Geller told CBC Sports. "That's a concern because there's three rounds of competition in this and she hasn't done that in quite a long time.

"We don't really know what to expect but I do think that, if she gets to the finals, then that would be great."

Canadian swimmers meet goal in 6 km relay

On Day 1 of open swimming, Eric Brown of Pointe-Claire, Que., beat his Turkish opponent to the line by 1.5 seconds, anchoring Canada's teenaged team to an 11th-place finish in the six-kilometre relay.

"I'm really happy I was able to not let that guy pass me at the end. I'm happy with that race but it was really hard," Brown, 19, said in a news release from Swimming Canada.

Canada coach Mark Perry was happy with the effort from his squad, which featured three senior national team rookies.

"They're certainly one of the most inexperienced teams here so we talked about a top-12 finish being a great result for us," he said. "Coming 11th, and Eric had to fight for 11th at the end there, was a really strong performance from all four of them."

Canada was 13th in the event at the 2019 FINA aquatics world championships in Gwangju, Korea, a team that produced Tokyo 2020 Olympians Hau-Li Fan and Kate Sanderson.

Florian Wellbrock clinched the win for Germany in one hour four minutes 40.5 seconds. Hungary placed second, 2.5 seconds behind, with Kristof Rasovszky out-touching Italy's Gregorio Paltrinieri in a photo finish at Lupa Beach. Canada was two minutes 54.2 seconds off the pace.

Good intro to sport for Bellio

Katrina Bellio, a 2020 Tokyo Olympian in the pool, opened the race by putting Canada in 16th position.

"I think it was a good way to get myself introduced into open water swimming, and hopefully sets me up well for the 10 km [Wednesday]," said the Etobicoke, Ont., native. "It's definitely a new type of racing, that's for sure."

Alexander Axon of Markham, Ont., pushed his team to 11th in his national team debut.

"We've got some young guys and girls on the team, so I think moving forward, it's only up from there," Axon said. "Being underdogs and coming close to top 10 is a really strong performance."

Fellow rookie Emma Finlin swam third, with Canada dropping back one position to 12th, just under two minutes behind Hungary.

The 5 km races are scheduled for Monday with Axon in the men's race at 3 a.m. ET. Finlin and Abby Dunford are set to compete in the women's event at 5 a.m.

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