The Canadians fell 15-7 in their semifinal to a strong Italian side that was bolstered by a packed crowd at Piscina Scandone in Naples on Friday. Canada will now play for bronze against the loser of the Hungary and Russia semifinal.
“I give credit to the Italians as they were well prepared and we saw what we were expecting,” said Canadian head coach Cyril Dorgigné after the loss. “We didn’t execute exactly what we should have done.”
“We are not used to this atmosphere. We have a young team and this kind of event with so much pressure, plus the crowd plus Italy playing at home, well, we didn’t’ step up our game enough to be able to compete with them and try to win.”
For the opportunities Canada had to attack the goal, Italian goalie Fabiana Sparano was outstanding. Sparano made 11 saves, while her team in front of her did their part to provide several field blocks. Canada’s Daphné Guèvremont scored three goals for Canada, while Italy out-scored Canada 11-3 in the first half.
“The first half was a little rough and Italy is a really physical team,” said team captain Alex Massier. “They are in your suit the entire game. Especially with a giant crowd, all that atmosphere and we have a young team, it gets to your nerves a little bit. I’m really, really proud of the way that we did come back and at no point did we quit.”
It was definitely not the start that Canada needed to get up on the host side. Italy’s Chiara Ranalli broke the deadlock less than three minutes in to the game, while Agnese Cocchiere’s close-range shot hit the cross bar and skidded in for a 2-0 Italy lead. After being denied twice by Sparano, Canada was able to finally tally on a top-shelf shot from Guèvremont. Italy added two more goals, while Guèvremont struck again for Canada to enter the first break chasing Italy 4-2.
The game opened up in the second quarter, as Italy scored four goals at the start to nab an 8-2 lead. Canada was awarded a penalty shot but Sparano once again came up big for her side, diving to her left to deny Guèvremont a third goal. Italy’s Martina Gottardo pushed the ball past Canadian goalie Rachael Jaffe to make the score 9-2, while Brianna Utas made good on a second Canadian penalty shot to bring Canada within six. Italy added two more quick goals to leave Canada trailing 11-3 entering halftime.
Canada did a lot better neutralizing Italy’s opportunities in the third as the game got increasingly more physical. Canadian goalie Kelsey Jensen made a key save as both teams scored two goals in the quarter. Valeria Rojas scored first for Canada, capitalizing on an Italy exclusion, while Italy responded with goals from each of Gottardo and Anna Repetto. Finally, Canada was able to find Guèvremont, who fired a high shot in to the net from a tight angle. Italy held a dominant 13-5 lead entering the final quarter.
Canada and Italy were once again held to a 2-2 score margin through the fourth quarter as Brianna Utas and Verica Bakoc each scored late in the game. Despite the even second half, the early damage was too much to come back from and Canada suffered a 15-7 defeat to Italy.
“As a team I didn’t see one point look disappointed or sad on the bench,” added Massier. “It was like we were going to come back, we are going to fight. Even though that wasn’t the result, it’s that ‘Don’t quit’ attitude that I love about this team.”
Canada will now play for bronze against the loser of the Hungary and Russia semifinal. The bronze medal game will take place on Saturday at 12:00 p.m. EDT / 9:00 a.m. PDT (6:00 p.m. (local time).
“It’s a great learning experience for us for the future because we need to step up in these moments and be sure we respond properly to resolve any mistakes,” said Dorgigné ahead of the team’s final game in Italy. “This game needs to be a huge learning experience for us, because as soon as tomorrow we are playing for bronze. We shouldn’t have our heads down. We keep our heads up and learn from it and be ready for tomorrow. Tomorrow will be a very different story.”