By Karen Price | May 30, 2018, 2:50 p.m. (ET)
Rachel Fattal is challenged by Beatriz Ortiz Munoz of Spain during the women's water polo gold-medal match at the 2017 FINA World Championships on July 28, 2017 in Budapest, Hungary.

 

The U.S. women’s water polo team isn’t backing down a bit from its status as the best in the world.

The top-ranked Americans swept group play at the FINA World League Super Final with a 10-7 win against Russia on Wednesday, their third victory in a row at the tournament, to top their group heading into Thursday’s quarterfinals in Kunshan, China.

Netherlands topped the other group.

Team USA has won the last four World League Super Finals and has a record total of 11 titles at the tournament. They will now face Australia in the quarterfinals at 7:30 a.m. ET on Thursday.

Olympic gold medalists Rachel Fattal, Aria Fischer, Kaleigh Gilchrist, Ashleigh Johnson, Kiley Neushul, Melissa Seidemann and Maggie Steffens are among the top returners to this year’s veteran squad, which has 10 players back from last year’s world championship winning team. The U.S. currently holds every major international title including the Olympic Games, world championship, World Cup and World League.

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After defeating Japan on Monday and Canada on Tuesday, the U.S. started slow against Russia but used a powerful extra-man attack to score six of eight on the advantage. Paige Hauschild’s goal on the advantage in the final minutes with the score 9-7 helped the U.S. avoid a shootout and move into the playoffs. Seidemann and Neushul each scored two goals in the victory.

“Russia played tough and they do many different things,” head coach Adam Krikorian told fina.org after the game. “They have one of the best players in the world in Ekaterina (Prokofyeva) and a bunch of players are physical. Russia has an unorthodox style, like Japan, and it takes time adjusting. We handled it well, but we were not that sharp. It’s important learning from each game we play.”

The day before, Fattal scored three goals and goaltender Johnson made six saves in a rematch of the 2017 Super Final game against Canada. The U.S. raced out to a 5-1 lead against its opponents from the north but watched Canada close to 5-3 at the half. Team USA jumped out again in the third period, scoring five goals to take a 10-3 lead into the fourth before winning, 12-5.

Fattal also scored a trio of goals in Team USA’s 14-4 win over Japan to open the tournament. Brigitta Games also registered a hat trick and Gabby Stone made eight saves in the victory.

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.