Rippon, McCormack milestones spur Stingers to penalty shootout victory
1 June 2012
In a game where dual Olympian Melissa Rippon became the first Australian woman in history to play 300 internationals, the Aussie Stingers have been pushed to a penalty shootout by Russia before recording a 9-7 victory in their round robin clash at the FINA World League Super Finals in Changshu, China.
Joining Rippon in achieving her wonderful milestone was Beijing Olympic goalkeeper Alicia McCormack who clocked up her 200th appearance in the green and gold and was the hero of the night with 17 saves overall and two spectacular blocks in the shootout.
The game was the first real test of the tournament for the Australians who had earlier beaten Canada 20-4 and Italy 12-2 and it went down to the wire, the Stingers overcoming a 3-2 deficit at the first break to level the scores at 5-all at half time and six goals a piece at three quarter time.
Neither team could score in the final term setting up a penalty shootout to effectively decide which team took out Group B.
In the shootout McCormack saved Russia’s first shot, putting the 2011 World Championships bronze medallists on the back foot before captain Kate Gynther, Nicola Zagame and Glencora Ralph all converted their attempts for Australia.
Russia missed on their third attempt wide of the posts and when McCormack again blocked the fourth shot the Stingers were declared the winners.
The Australians will now take on winless Germany in the quarterfinal stage of the tournament tonight at 7.40pm (AEST). A win will see them ensured of a medal playoff at the very least.
Leading into the tournament record breaker Rippon was unaware she was on the cusp of the triple century of Test Caps until informed by officials and wasn’t about to let her individual achievements get in the way of the team’s success.
“I was pretty surprised that I was the first person to get to 300, I thought there were a few more before me, but to do it is very humbling,” Rippon said.
“The girls have kept it pretty real today and reminded me of how old I am but in all seriousness while it’s exciting personally everything is all about the team and I will let this icing on the cake roll on by.”
Australian water polo legend Debbie Watson, who played almost 250 games for her country in a stellar career that culminated in the famous Olympic gold medal at Sydney 2000, said Rippon’s achievement to reach 300 games was extraordinary.
“I can’t even fathom 300 games in this day and age where every game is so tough, the type of training and amount of training is so tough,” Watson said.
“The girls play so many more games these days, backing up day after day, tournament after tournament and Mel has done it for more than a decade. It’s a great achievement.”
The World League is the final major tournament before the Olympic Games and includes fellow London 2012 teams Italy, Russia, China and the USA. It is also the last chance for Australian players to impress head coach Greg McFadden ahead of the Olympic team announcement on June 12.
Australian Water Polo Inc