MARKHAM, Ontario -- The women’s water polo competition at the Pan American Games has become a border battle.
The gold-medal game in Toronto was once again a matchup of the U.S. vs. Canada on Tuesday, with the Americans taking home their fourth straight gold medal by a 13-4 win.
The two North American nations have met in each of the five gold-medal matches since women’s water polo was added to the Pan Am Games program in 1999. Canada’s lone win was at the 1999 Games held in Winnipeg.
Melissa Seidemann remains from the 2011 team that won, 27-26, to secure an Olympic berth, which was not on the line on Tuesday.
“For me as a player, for us as a team, it was totally different,” she said. “I like to think that if it was our qualifier that we’d perform the same way, but the pressure is significantly more. It was just different.”
Before medals were even distributed, coach Adam Krikorian was discussing Team USA’s chances at the upcoming world championships later this month and the Rio 2016 Olympic qualifying event next spring.
Krikorian's all-business approach is one that has rooted its way into the team’s thinking. And he has instilled leadership skills into the four players currently on the team who remain from the gold-medal-winning team at the London 2012 Olympic Games.
“He gives us a sense of purpose when we’re out there,” said Maggie Steffens, who had four goals in the final in Toronto. “Being able to play at the Olympics is the dream. In order to get there, there’s another step. We’re always looking forward. That’s USA for you.”
The Americans found themselves trailing in the early stages of Tuesday’s tilt, but responded with a pair of goals from Courtney Mathewson to reclaim the lead – one they wouldn’t relinquish.
Team USA outscored opponents, 102-16, over the course of the five-game tournament.
“It’s not about the goals scored,” Krikorian said. “As we understand the game, we see our movements in the water, we see where we’re supposed to be, what we’re supposed to give up and what we’re not supposed to give up. From that, we can tell that we’re not there. The beauty of sport, we’ll never be there, but we’ll try to be as perfect as possible.
“Talk to me after our world championships…” he continued. “I think we’re going to be challenged a little bit more to be quite honest.”
The FINA World Championships start July 24 in Kazan, Russia, and the team’s aspirations for the Rio 2016 Games will be determined next April.
“We still have so much more to bring,” Steffens said. “That’s the reason we’re all here, we’re all fighting, because we want that Olympic dream and to play the best we can at the biggest stage.”