The Herald (Harare)

Zimbabwe: Russia Thump Zim Waterpolo Team

THE Zimbabwe women's Under-18 waterpolo team are out of the running for a podium place at the on-going first Fina World Youth Championships in Perth, Australia, after they were thumped 35-0 by Russia yesterday.

Yesterday's heavy defeat to Russia was Zimbabwe's third successive lose in the four-team Group D where they also played and lost against South Africa and Greece.

In fact, according to reports from Perth, an inexperienced Zimbabwe side were "caught cold" in their opening three matches in which they lost to South Africa, Greece and Russia.

Zimbabwe opened their campaign in Perth on Sunday against neighbours South Africa who beat them 9-1 (2-1, 0-0, 5-0, 2-0) before Greece hammered them 36-2 in their second match on Monday.

In the other Group D match on Monday, Russia jumped up a gear at half-time in their game against South Africa and turned an 8-5 lead into a 23-5 victory with six goals coming from Natalia Perfilyeva.

In fact, on Monday, Greece scored 20 second-half goals to beat Zimbabwe 36-2 with the trio of Alkistis Benekou (seven goals), Ionna Charalampidi (6) and Stefania Charalampidi (6) combining for 19.

Greece managed to score 11 goals in the first quarter with only Zimbabwean captain Sinead Cockcroft able to get on the board.

Zimbabwe's defence held up in the second quarter with Greece scoring just four goals.

In that time, Zimbabwe's Savannah Stead managed to score her team's second and last goal for the game.

Simple mistakes allowed Greece to push further ahead in the third term scoring 10 goals to increase their lead to 25 at the last break.

It was almost like target practice in the last quarter with Greece adding another nine to their total.

Alkistis Benekou of Greece ended the game with seven, while Zimbabwe's Cockcroft and 'keeper Jordyn Clipston were brave in defence.

Cockcroft said they knew the game against the Greeks would be hard but said they had learned a lot about defence and were confident of improving for yesterday's game against Russia.

"It was a tough game but we learnt a lot in defence" Cockcroft said.

"We knew coming into the game they were a very strong side so it was a great learning experience".

But Zimbabwe were also overpowered by Russia in their last Group D match yesterday.

Zimbabwe were no match against a vastly experienced Russian side who thumped them 35-0 at Perth's Challenge Stadium to blow the African side's chances of fighting for a medal of any colour at these championships which finishes on Sunday.

However, the Zimbabwe women's Under-18 waterpolo team were yesterday praised for their "brave displays" in Perth by the Minister of Education, Sport, Arts and Culture, David Coltart.

Writing on his Facebook wall yesterday, Coltart said: "Our brave Zimbabwean waterpolo girls (team) have just been beaten 35-0 by Russia, the world number one team in the Fina World Championships in Perth, Australia.

"This has been a hard but necessary experience for our girls. They have never played against such robust, quality opposition before.

"To put this in context Russia recently beat Turkey 52-0 and Turkey have had a lot more international experience than our girls. So we are very proud of you all girls and I remind you that this is just the first step along the path of establishing Zimbabwe as an African powerhouse of waterpolo. We have to start somewhere and this is a good start."

The first ever Fina World Youth Waterpolo Championships are designed for both boys and girls, and they have attracted 34 teams including the Zimbabwe women's Under-18 side.

These championships are for the best 18 and under players in the world and it is the second time this age-group event has been staged -- the first boys' and girls' championships with Croatia boys winning in Sibenik, Croatia, and Russia girls winning in Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia -- both in 2009.

This is the first time that a junior water polo event has seen both gender categories playing at the same venue at the same time.

The first Fina World Youth Waterpolo Championships is the premier Under-18 water polo competition in the world.

The nine-day tournament will also see men and women play for gold in the same city for the first time at this level.

Zimbabwe Under-18 women's waterpolo team

Jordyn Clipston, Natasha Lawson, Roxanne Shepherd, Heidi McWade, Amilee Fury, Jessica Smith, Sarah Gentleman, Savannah Stead, Kelsey Hunter, Brittany Lightfoot, Joanna Beare, Sinead Cockcroft, Jessica Harris.

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