By Cybele Zhang
The International Swimming Federation (FINA) Women’s Junior World Championship is set to kick off on Monday in Funchal, Portugal, and four Cardinal players will be in attendence. The U.S. roster includes incoming freshman Hannah Constandse, junior Sarah Klass and sophomore Ryann Neushul, while freshman Floranne Carroll is a member of the Canadian team.
The seven-day international tournament is the junior equivalent of the FINA World Championship, which was held in July. In that tournament, the U.S. women claimed gold for an unprecedented third consecutive time. The competition might be better known, however, for the balcony collapse that occurred after the championship in Gwangju, South Korea’s Coyote Ugly nightclub, where American water polo players were celebrating the women’s victory.
The FINA World Championship also hosted other water sports, including the first-ever beach water polo championship. Neushul was part of Team USA’s roster for the inaugural event and helped the Americans to a first-place finish.
The junior version of the water polo tournament, however, is held every two years and features players under the age of 20. The tournament was launched in 1981 for men and 1995 for women. In the 2017 championship — which was hosted in Volos, Greece — Russia, Greece and the Netherlands took home gold, silver and bronze, respectively, in women’s water polo.
Although the U.S. was kept off the podium in the most recent championship, they did win gold in both 2013 and 2015. This year’s tournament will be their shot at redemption and will foreshadow the upcoming talent for the 2024 Olympics
Klass and Neushul are both returners from the 2017 FINA Junior World Championship squad, which finished in fifth place. Caroll and Constandse, however, are newcomers.
At the FINA Junior World Championship two years ago, Klass played in all seven games and scored six times with a pair of assists. Neushul, one of the tournament’s top five scorers, led the United States with 15 goals and tied for the team lead with seven steals.
This summer has certainly been full of travel for the four Cardinal players. All four recently returned from a two-week “sports diplomacy” trip to Chengdu, China and the Tibetan Plateau of Sichuan Province, where they trained, played and engaged in cultural exchanges. And now, for the week leading up to the competition, Team USA has been training in Barcelona, Spain with the Spanish Women’s Junior National Team.
Team USA will compete first in the FINA Junior World Championship in Group A, which also includes Australia, Hungary and Japan. The second and third place teams will both move on into the first stage of the bracket, and the winners of each of the four groups will win a bye to the quarterfinals. The last placed country in each group will be eliminated. Viewers can watch the games through a live stream on FINATV.live.
Funchal, the host city of the junior event, has a population of around 110,000 (a little more than double that of Palo Alto) and is located on the island of Madeira off the coast of Morocco. The city is best known in the sports world as being the birthplace of soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo.
Constandse and Caroll enter the tournament straight out of high school, looking to make a name for themselves before Stanford’s season kicks off, while both Klass and Neushul were standouts in the 2018 season for the Cardinal.
Constandse comes to Stanford from Southern California Division 1 powerhouse Mater Dei, where she scored a team-high 50 goals in her senior season and helped the Monarchs to the Trinity League championship. She was also selected to represent Team USA last year in the 2018 Youth World Championships in Belgrade, Serbia and won a silver medal at the 2016 UANA Junior Pan American Championships.
Carroll attended College Marianopolis in Montreal and competed for the CAMO club program. She claimed three national titles in as many years with her club team. Carroll joined the Canadian Senior National Team in New Zealand for the 2018 FINA Intercontinental Cup. In January, she won gold at the 2019 UANA Cup in Sao Paulo, Brazil and scored in the final against Cuba. This past summer, Carroll was one of over 20 Stanford athletes who represented their native countries at the 2019 World University Games in Italy.
Klass enters the international tournament after being voted ACWPC All-America honorable mention during the 2018 season. She finished third for the Cardinal in goals scored with 41 and averaged 1.68 goals per game. Klass scored in 20 games, including five hat tricks.
MPSF Newcomer of the Year Neushul is probably best known for putting away the game winning goal in the 2018 National Championship to secure Stanford its seventh NCAA title. She was an All-NCAA Tournament first-team selection and was fifth on the team in scoring with 35 goals, averaging 1.40 goals per game.
Contact Cybele Zhang at cybelez ‘at’ stanford.edu.