It was a golden Saturday for the U.S. women’s water polo team at the FINA World League Super Final.
Team USA claimed its fifth straight tournament title and 12th overall with an 8-6 victory over the Netherlands in Kunshan, China. The team now has the longest streak of wins by any country in the women’s World League – the Americans won four straight from 2009-12 – and tied the longest men’s streak (Serbia, 2013-17).
It is the eighth World League Super Final gold medal for two-time Olympic champions Maggie Steffens and Melissa Seidemann. 2016 Olympic champions Kiley Neushul and Rachel Fattal collected their fifth Super Final golds, Kaleigh Gilchrist now has four and Ashleigh Johnson and Aria Fischer each have three.
Fattal had a hat trick and Seidemann scored two goals in the win, and Johnson was named best goalkeeper of the tournament. Paige Hauschild, Steffens and Alys Williams also scored for the U.S.
“We wanted the Dutch to beat Canada so we could play them,” Seidemann told FINA.org. “They have a young team and a lot of talent. They are physical and fast and it was a lot of fun. (Coach) Adam (Krikorian) told us we were doing the right things. We were looking for fluidity on offense. We found it in the end.”
The Netherlands took a 2-1 lead in the first quarter, but Fattal and Seidemann scored two unanswered goals in the second to take a 3-2 lead into halftime. It was a close third quarter until Williams gave the Americans a two-goal lead and Team USA held a 6-4 lead going into the fourth. The Netherlands tied it 6-6, but the U.S. fought back with Steffens scoring the go-ahead goal and Hauschild netting an insurance goal with under a minute remaining.
“We worked so hard and had to finish it,” Johnson told FINA.org. “Those last essential goals were needed to finish the game. A lot of changes have been made (in the team) and people coming back, including me. There are so many pieces of the puzzle. We were a little rough around the edges, but we got into a rhythm and it’s nice in a new team.”