© Marcel ter Bals

USA, Russia, Spain, Italy clinch Rio 2016 berth

The reigning champions will be back in Rio. As expected Team USA clinched their berth for the 2016 Olympics hammering France 19-0 in the qualification tournament decisive quarterfinals on Saturday. Right from the start there was no holding back the determined girls of head coach Adam Krikorian as they raced to the large victory. Following the final whistle USA captain Maggie Steffens was presented a symoblic ticket to Rio as celebrations went underway.

In the next game it was Russia who secured their ticket to the 2016 Olympics but in dramatic fashion. A tied match-up with Greece saw the Greek women taking a 2-goal lead with just a minute to play. Greece thought they had their tickets in the pocket more or less but Russia was far from done. In the next two attacks, including a last one being score with just 4 seconds on the clock, the Russian women tied the game at 10-10 so penalties had to determine which of the sides earned their spot in Rio. A lot of misses were the simple result of the immense amount of pressure that the players were under during the series. 
After veterans Antigoni Roumpesi (Greece) and Ekaterina Prokofyeva (Russia) converted their penalty shots, the misses started effecting the series. First Elena Xenaki, who looked to have scored the winning 10-8 goal for Greece in regulation missed but later on saw Ekaterina Soboleva not being able to hit. Three misses later, Maria Borisova stepped up knowing she could send her team to Rio. And hitting colblooded she netted the winning shot as Russia edged Greece 12-13 and emotions were all around as Russia secured their spot in Rio and Greece missed out on Olympic action.

Spain stunned the crowd by eliminating hosts the Netherlands from Olympic participation. A strong tactical first half laid the foundation for a 10-7 victory silencing the sellout crowd at the Groenhovenbad. The Spanish girls overpowered and outplayed the Dutch team in the opening period and much of the second term. After a big 8-3 lead was established the Dutch side started to play more in 'all-or-nothing' mode which provided more of a battle. But the Miki Oca coached Spanish squad held on to keep a 3-goal lead intact. In the only moment that the Netherlands came back to within a single-goal distance after a long fight, Spain was right there in the final period to strike back getting the score to 9-7. That proved vital as the Dutch tried hard but could not convert on several key moments where Spain goalie Laura Ester saved or the woodwork was hit. After the exclamation point by Laura Lopez who scored the 10-7 goal the Spanish girls could start celebrating. They qualified for the Olympics leaving the Dutch out of contention, for the second straight time as the Netherlands fell to Italy in Trieste four years ago in a similar situation.

In Saturday's last quarterfinal it was Italy who took the last spot for Rio 2016. A surprising resillient Canada squad came back strong in the final period scoring two unanswered goals but fell just short of completing a comeback as Italy held on for the tight 7-8 win and have their spot at the 2016 Olympics.

2016 Olympic Games Qualification Tournament
Gouda (NED)

Day 6 - Saturday, March 26 (quarterfinals):

USA* vs. France 19-0 (5-0, 7-0, 3-0, 4-0)

Greece vs. Russia* 12-13 (5-3, 1-2, 1-2, 3-3; penalties: 2-3)

Spain* vs. Netherlands 10-7 (4-1, 2-2, 2-2, 2-2)

Canada vs. Italy* 7-8 (2-4, 2-2, 1-2, 2-0)

Day 7 - Sunday, March 27:

12.00: Greece vs. Canada
13.45: France vs. Netherlands


16.00: USA vs. Spain
17.45: Russia vs. Italy

N.b.: time mentioned is local time.

*qualified for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro (BRA)

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