World Aquatics Championships

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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