The U.S. women’s water polo team found itself in an unfamiliar position at the end of the FINA Intercontinental Tournament on Sunday: second place.
For the first time in nearly four years, Team USA failed to win a tournament, after winning the past three intercontinental tournaments; the 2014, ’15 and ’16 World League Super Finals; 2014 World Cup; 2015 world championships; and 2016 Olympic Games. The last tournament the U.S. did not win gold at was the 2013 world championships, where it finished fifth.
At the intercontinental tournament, held this year at the University of California, Davis campus, Team USA reeled off wins over Kazakhstan (12-7), China (10-5), Japan (10-6), Canada (6-5) and Australia (9-7) before facing Australia again in Sunday’s gold-medal match.
It was an impressive run for a group of youngsters. Due to the tournament taking place during the NCAA season, most of the usual women’s national team players were unavailable, so the team competing this week included only two Olympic champions – two-time gold medalist Melissa Seidemann and 18-year-old high school senior Aria Fischer.
In the final, Team USA trailed Australia the entire game: 2-0 after the first quarter, then 3-0 in the second before scoring two goals just prior to halftime. Fischer tied the game in the third, but Australia quickly added three more to its tally. In the last period, each country scored four goals to end the game 10-7.
Canada earned bronze after defeating Japan 5-2, while Kazakhstan finished fifth and China sixth.
Seidemann was named tournament MVP, after scoring 12 goals in six games.