Maggie Steffens

U.S. women’s water polo shuts down Spain for third straight world title

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The dominant U.S. women’s water polo team moved another step toward a triple-double of major titles Friday, winning a third straight world championship with an 11-6 win over Spain in a rematch of the 2017 final.

Next year, the team will go for a third straight Olympic gold, having already clinched a berth in the tournament by winning the World League Super Final last month. The Americans will be heavily favored, having won 53 straight games.

After a sloppy start that allowed Spain to forge a 3-3 tie in the second quarter, the U.S. broke things open with a 6- run, including a 4-0 spread in the third quarter.

Goalkeeper Ashleigh Johnson, an East Coaster on a team full of Californians, was once again nearly unbeatable, stopping nine of 14 shots in the first half to keep Spain from taking the lead. She stopped six shots in the first quarter alone and finished with 14 saves before heading to the bench when the game was safely in hand late in the fourth quarter.

The U.S. took charge in the middle of the game with a balanced attack to compensate for the absence of leading scorer Maddie Musselman, who was out sick. Eight different players — Maggie Steffens, Paige Hauschild, Stephanie Haralabidis, Makenzie Fischer, Melissa Seidemann, Aria Fischer and Kiley Neuschel — scored the first eight U.S. goals.

Neuschul finished with a hat trick, one shy of her four-goal output from the 2017 final, while Steffens added her second.

The U.S. women are the first team to win three straight world titles. Since Adam Krikorian took over in 2009, the team has won four of six world championships, two straight Olympic championships and three straight World Cups.

The gold medal kicked off a banner day for the U.S. at the World Aquatics Championships, with Simone Manuel‘s 100m freestyle win accounting for one of three swimming medals while Caeleb Dressel and Regan Smith set world records in their semifinal races.

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USA water polo tops Hungary; Goes for gold Saturday vs Italy

Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images
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It’ll be the United States versus Italy for Olympic gold on Saturday, after the Americans handled Hungary 14-10 in Thursday’s women’s water polo semifinal in Rio.

Maggie Steffens led the Americans in scoring, as she is wont to do, tacking another four goals onto her tournament total. Madeline Musselman (above) and Kiley Neushul each had two.

Makenzie Fischer scored in the first minute for the U.S. after a quick penalty on Hungary, though Hungary leveled through Krisztina Gara.

The USA took control in the second quarter, opening up a 8-4 lead through a balanced attack; Seven players scored in the first half and only Musselman netted more than once.

The first half finished with the U.S. leading 8-5.

Potent USA women’s water polo coasts into knockout rounds with 11-6 win

Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
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The United States women’s water polo team continued to pound its Olympic competition, as driver Maggie Steffens continued her fine tournament with a quartet of goals in a 11-6 win over Hungary on Saturday at the Maria Lenk Aquatics Center.

USA led 7-3 at halftime, with Steffens collecting another first half hat trick, but nearly ran into nervy times in the second half.

The win moves the Americans onto the quarterfinals, where they’ll face Group A’s fourth place Brazil.

U.S. finished the group stage with 34 goals scored and just 14 allowed, both tournament bests.