Canada women's water polo team fell to 0-2 at the Tokyo Olympic Games, losing to Spain 14-10 Monday at the Tatsumi Water Polo Centre.
The Canadians, participating in their first Olympics since the Athens Games in 2004, went back and forth with the reigning world runner-ups in the early going.
But the Spaniards pulled away late, with a pair of goals in the fourth quarter by defender Roser Tarragó – a silver medallist at the London Olympics in 2012.
Montreal's Elyse Lemay-Lavoie led the way for Canada with a hat trick, while goaltender Claire Wright stopped 11 shots, including a key save on a penalty shot in the second quarter to keep the match tied at five.
"For sure we really wanted to win that match, so we wanted to come out strong," Lemay-Lavoie said. "And we started well, but we had a few problems on defence and I think that's what hurt us the most. We tried to catch up, but they got some good opportunities that cost us."
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Back-and-forth first half
Lemay-Lavoie scored in the opening minute of the match, followed up with another from Monika Eggens less than a minute later, giving Canada an early 2-0 lead.
Spain fought back, scoring 20 seconds later when Bea Ortiz scored the first of her four goals in the match. Ortiz has now scored eight goals, good for a share of the tournament scoring lead with Ekaterina Prokofyeva of the Russian Olympic Committee team.
After Spain tied it with a power-play goal from Maica García, both countries exchanged goals before Spain took a 6-5 lead into halftime.
Canada managed to hang around through most of the third, never trailing by more than two.
But the Spaniards – who have six players competing in their third Olympics – put that experience on display, pulling away in the fourth quarter with two goals in the opening two-and-a-half minutes to stretch the lead to 11-7.
Canada pulled within two after goals by Shae la Roche and Kyra Christmas, but Spain controlled the pace in the final two minutes to improve to 2-0 in Group A.
"It was just the little things on the execution. Some passes, some missed shot attempts that they capitalized on," said la Roche, who scored a pair of goals in the loss.
"I think [Spain] challenged me with the fast shots and the skip shots," Wright said.
"I think they're really good shooters, so when we allowed them time to step in and have that time to decide where they want to shoot, I think that was challenging for me as a goalie."
South Africa next up for Canada
Canada will not turn its focus to its remaining two matches to round out its group stage play. The top four of the group's five teams will advance to the quarter-finals.
Canada will face South Africa on Wednesday, who were trounced 29-4 by Spain in their opening match, before rounding out their group stage against the Netherlands on Sunday.
"For sure two losses in our pool is tough right now," said Lemay-Lavoie.
"But we still have a match against South Africa in two days, and after against the Netherlands. We still have a chance against the Netherlands, so we have to battle until the end to not finish fourth in our pool. So we're just going to focus on the next two matches."