Superb Hedges stars as Uniroos win gold in Gwangju
Western Australian goalkeeper Lilian Hedges has starred in the women’s water polo final at the 2015 World University Games, helping the Australian Uniroos beat Canada 6-3 and claim their first title in Gwangju, Korea.
There were few scoring opportunities throughout the encounter, and with the scores tied 3-3 at full time the game was sent to a penalty shootout, Hedges saving all of Canada’s attempts to show why she has had the eye of Australian national team selectors in the recent past.
From its commencement the game had been a defensive arm wrestle with just three goals scored between the two teams in both the first and second halves, the score line at full time more akin to a football game than water polo.
Australian coach Eddie Denis praised his team, saying that after coming together for the first time a little under a fortnight ago, they had steadily improved as the tournament went on.
“Today was a very good result for a team that came together at just the beginning of this tournament,” Dennis said.
“Our defence got better each game and we dealt with the challenges of each game as a team.
“Today was a struggle in attack, but our defence was great. Penalties are never easy, but our shooters stood up and Lil Hedges in goals was superb.
“Undefeated in the tournament is a nice feeling.”
It took more than three minutes for the first goal to be registered and pleasingly for the Uniroos it was Queenslander Tiana Anderson opening the account. Canada hit back a little more than a minute later, the score remaining 1-1 at quarter time.
It was an equally tough second quarter as both teams continued to display defensive astuteness. While Hedges made tough saves for the Uniroos it was Canada who broke the deadlock to lead 2-1 at half time.
Another Queenslander put Australia back on an equal footing with Canada in the third term, Ellodie Ruffin making the most of a pass from Uniroos captain Isobel Bishop. However the next six minutes of play shed no more light on who might win gold, the score remaining 2-2 at the final break.
Canada broke the stalemate first in the final period with a shot that ricocheted off the post and past Hedges to move them into the lead, however Anderson soon responded with her second goal for the Uniroos, locking the game at 3-3 and sending it to penalties.
It was Australia who grabbed the limelight during the shootout; Hedges impeccable in goals, while Jessica Zimmerman, Lena Mihailovic and Ruffin all converted to hand the Uniroos their first gold medal.
An ecstatic Anderson said that the team pulled together after a tough start to secure the winning result, in what was a stirring moment for the whole team.
“We started off a bit shaky with our shooting, but our defence got us over the line,” Anderson said.
“Knowing we all had each others backs helped us put those final shots away. We are so unbelievably excited and happy to achieve something that no other Australian women’s university team has done before.
“Gold in Gwangju, enough said.”
While the World University Games may have concluded on a winning note, the core of this team will continue on to next months FINA World Junior Women’s Water Polo Championships in Merida, Mexico where they will hope to emulate the success of Gwangju.
Australian Uniroos: Lilian Hedges (University of Western Australia), Pascalle Casey (Macquarie University), Elle Armit (Queensland University of Technology), Montana Perkins (University of Newcastle), Isobel Bishop (University of Technology Sydney), Julia Barton (University of Newcastle), Lena Mihailovic (Arizona State University), Ellodie Ruffin (Australian Catholic University), Fiona Walsh (University of NSW), Jessica Zimmerman (Curtin University of Technology), Tiana Anderson (Griffith University, Gold Coast), Madeleine Steere (University of Melbourne), Tyler Baillie (Queensland University of Technology)
Result: Australia 6 bt Canada 3 in penalty shootout (FT: 3-3)
Quarters: 1-1, 0-1, 1-0, 1-1 (3-0)
AUS Scorers: T Anderson 2, E Ruffin 2, J Zimmerman, L Mihailovic