Winning farewell for Smith as Stingers defeat USA
26 May 2014
WATER POLO: Retiring Australian women’s water polo player, London Olympic bronze medallist Sophie Smith, has finished her career as a champion scoring a pivotal goal in the Aussie Stingers thrilling 7-5 victory over the USA in the gold medal final of the 2014 FINA World League Intercontinental Cup in Riverside, California.
In a career spanning 10 years, 173 test caps for Australia, and a handful of international medals including bronze at the 2012 London Olympics, the 28-year-old Queenslander went out as a winner, netting a crucial goal in the third quarter to set up Australia’s two-goal victory.
The Stingers began strongly with the combination of Keesja Gofers and dual Olympic bronze medallist Gemma Beadsworth paying dividends as Australia built a 3-1 lead at the first break.
The second and third quarters saw a tough exclusion count work against the Stingers, who came under pressure from the USA. Despite this, Ashleigh Southern and woman of the moment Smith turned over goals to hand Australia a 5-3 lead.
The hosts responded with a pair of goals via Kami Craig and Jill Kraus, only for captain Rowie Webster to power home with eight seconds remaining to give Australia a 6-5 lead at the final break.
The vocal home crowd lifted the intensity of the game as the US pressed for the equaliser early in the fourth. Aussie keeper Kelsey Wakefield held firm keeping the USA scoreless, and when Beadsworth netted her third with 1.48 left on the clock, Australia’s margin was back out to two.
US coach Adam Krikorian called a timeout with 45 seconds remaining, but it was to little avail as Wakefield continued the fourth quarter shutout, to hand Australia a memorable victory.
The Stingers now return home for a brief rest, before eyeing off further success at the FINA World League Finals in China, starting on June 10.
Result: Australia 7 bt USA 5 Quarters: 3-1, 1-2, 2-2, 1-0 Australian Scorers: G Beadsworth 3, R Webster 2, A Southern, S Smith
Water Polo Australia