The USA Water Polo Women’s Senior National Team will play for its fifth straight gold medal at the FINA World League Super Final after beating Australia in the quarterfinals on Thursday and Russia in the semifinals on Friday.
Team USA will face the Netherlands on Saturday in Kunshan, China, seeking its 12th World League title. The Netherlands defeated Canada, 11-5, in the other semifinal match on Friday.
In the thick of the hunt for the gold already with their status as reigning Olympic and world champions, the Americans pulled out to a 6-1 lead over the Russians in the first half en route to an 8-3 victory. Rio stars Kiley Neushul and Kaleigh Gilchrist scored two goals, as did Jamie Neushul, Kiley’s younger sister.
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“Semifinals are always exciting,” Aria Fischer told fina.com. “It gives us a chance to win and play for first place. We always get super excited and the team comes together to play for one goal. The best thing today was defense. Russia is great offensively, but it was our team defense today. We now have to analyze what went wrong, go back to the drawing board and fix them for the final.”
After winning Group A, Team USA cruised to the 12-1 win over Australia to start the elimination rounds. Following a defense-heavy first half, eight different players ended up scoring and four registered two goals each in the 12-1 victory, while Ashleigh Johnson made 15 saves. The U.S. led 3-0 at the half but scored five goals in the third quarter to take a commanding 8-1 lead into the fourth.
Olympians Fischer and Maggie Steffens scored two goals in the match, as did Jamie Neushul and Stephania Haralabidis.
Karen Price is a reporter from Pittsburgh who has covered Olympic sports for various publications. She is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.