Three queens for one throne

For the first time in the 36 years of the Women's Water Polo Champions League, three teams from the same country are competing in the semifinals.

Oliver Thansan
Oliver Thansan
18 April 2024 Thursday 17:21
6 Reads
Three queens for one throne

For the first time in the 36 years of the Women's Water Polo Champions League, three teams from the same country are competing in the semifinals. Astralpool CN Sabadell, current champion, Assolim CN Mataró, current runner-up, and Sant Andreu, new to the competition, have achieved this unprecedented milestone and aspire to lift the European scepter this weekend, with the permission of the ' Olympiacos, in the Nova de l'Escullera pool at CN Barcelona, ​​with an expanded capacity for 1,000 spectators.

"It's not a coincidence, it's a reflection that Catalan and Spanish water polo do the best work, achieving the best results in clubs and in national teams", sums up praiseworthy Àngel Moliner, president of the water polo of the European Swimming Federation, European Aquatics .

As soon as the three Catalan teams qualified for the final four, CN Barcelona and the Catalan Federation hurried to ask Escullera to organize the final phase. And the three protagonists sharpened their nails for the appointment: the three teams arrive very evenly matched, with Sant Andreu as the surprising leader who has beaten its two rivals in the League, with Mataró in toned and Sabadell in their tournament fetish

Favorite? Any of the four. Although captains and coaches agree that Sabadell starts one step ahead as current champion and after having won six of the last twelve editions. In an exchange of impressions with La Vanguardia, the protagonists lavished as much respect as good roll collects the image captured by Pau Venteo.

– I say the favorite is Sabadell, I pass the ball to them. They have the experience of playing and winning finals; I don't understand why they still aren't fed up with winning so much - says ironically Clara Cambray (27), captain of CN Mataró. They have a lot of level, but above all the experience of knowing how to manage the moments of the matches.

Maica García (33), captain of Sabadell, collects the glove.

- I won't say Olympiacos, for me the favorite is a Catalan team. You have to trust it. You have to put on a show and the title must stay at home. So I'll say Sabadell, because I want another Champions League. The four teams are very evenly matched - comments the main buoy of the selection, who is chasing the seventh crown, after collecting all of Sabadell's since the first one in 2011 with Nani Guiu.

But both Sabadell and Mataró, close rivals in recent years, do not at all trust the ambitious Sant Andreu, who with the audacity of the flag has burst in to bring down the duopoly of Vallesanas and Maresmencas.

– We have no pressure. We can ring the bell. If we play as we know how, I think we can make it big - María Palacio (21), captain of Sant Andreu, leader of the League (they only conceded a draw to Mataró, 8-8, decided on penalties in favor of those of the Maresme) and undefeated in Europe.

It is this uncomplicated daring that makes Sant Andreu more dangerous, a very young group (19 years old on average), successfully led by Javi Aznar, who has put together a joyful, lethal, disconcerting, dizzying ensemble.

- Sant Andreu is a baby boom; it's a total explosion of talent and ambition. But within this baby boom, the straw man is Martina Terré [Spain's starting goalkeeper], who consolidates the defense, gives it solidity and launches the attack. Like when we had Jesús Rollán - aptly expresses Dani Ballart, coach of Mataró.

- Everything is going well for Sant Andreu, it is in a very positive dynamic, with overflowing enthusiasm. And Martina Terré is like Ashley Johnson [the US goalkeeper] - admits David Palma, coach of CN Sabadell, who does not trust his opponent in the semi-finals, who already beat them in the League (13-10 in Sant Andreu) .

- We are not afraid. We entrust ourselves with this unconsciousness of young people, with this positive dynamic that we are experiencing. We have a long team, a lot of excitement and a lot of desire. I don't have a magic wand, many things have come together: work, top players, ambition, enthusiasm, the challenge of shining to go to the national team... We started the year well, it went well for us, and no we have stopped - explains Javi Aznar with the same naturalness with which his team plays and wins.

The semifinals are tomorrow at Escullera: Sant Andreu-Sabadell (12 p.m.), and Mataró-Olympiacos (2 p.m.). The final, Sunday (2 p.m.).