From Simone Biles to Monica Abbott and epee fencing to water polo, one thing is clear:
American women rock.
The performances of the U.S. in women’s team competitions on the international stage so far in 2018 has been phenomenal. And the momentum only figures to heat up in 2019 as more teams look to lock down berths for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.
The talent comes in all shapes and sizes, from the young spitfire that is Biles in gymnastics to the lanky veteran softball pitcher Abbott, while some of Team USA’s programs made unexpected statements, like the epee fencing team, and others continued to dominate their sport, like the water polo team did.
Here is a look back at the highlights for the U.S. women’s teams in 2018:
The U.S. Olympic Women's Ice Hockey Team celebrates after defeating Canada in the gold-medal game at the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018 on Feb. 22, 2018 in Gangneung, South Korea.
It was definitely a banner year for the Americans. After two decades of frustration at the Olympic Winter Games, Team USA finally won its second Olympic gold medal by beating rival Canada 3-2 in a shootout in February. Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson scored the decisive goal in the sixth round of the shootout after twin sister Monique Lamoureux-Morando tied the game 2-2 with 6 minutes, 21 seconds left in regulation. The Americans had not won Olympic gold since the sport’s Olympic debut 1998 in Nagano, Japan, instead settling for silver three times and bronze once. Then in early November, the U.S. followed the Olympic gold up with a 5-2 victory over host Canada in the title game of the Four Nations Cup, with Hilary Knight scoring twice. It was the fourth straight Four Nations Cup championship for the Americans.
Soccer(L-R) Members of the U.S. women's soccer team celebrate a goal at the Concacaf Women's Championship on Oct. 17, 2018 in Frisco, Texas.
If 2018 was any indicator, 2019 could be a dynamite year for the U.S. women’s soccer team. Team USA clinched a spot in the 2019 Women’s World Cup by winning the Concacaf championship with a 2-0 victory over Canada in August at Frisco, Texas. The U.S. also won the SheBelieves Cup and Tournament of Nations. Most remarkably, though, the Americans went undefeated in 2018, winning 18 times and tying twice. This marked the fourth calendar year the U.S. went undefeated, having also accomplished the feat in 2006 (18-0-4), 2013 (13-0-3) and 2016 (22-0-3). With the year coming to a close, the U.S. won the 500th game in team history when it beat Portugal 1-0 on Nov. 8. When Team USA completed its 2018 schedule with a 1-0 win over Scotland, it gave the Americans a record of 501-65-74 since the team began playing in 1986. The U.S. is currently unbeaten in its last 28 matches (25-0-3), including 10 straight wins.
With the Olympics bringing back softball for 2020, the U.S. became the first team to qualify for Tokyo, which it did by winning its second straight world championship. Team USA beat host Japan 7-6 in 10 innings in August, becoming the first team of any sport and any nation to earn its spot at the 2020 Games. Kelsey Stewart delivered the winning run when she singled home Michelle Moultrie. Softball has not been in the the previous two Olympics after the International Olympic Committee removed it from the program following 2008. The Americans also won the USA Softball International Cup in July. In early November, Abbott pitched two shutouts, including a two-hitter to beat Japan 4-0 in the Japan Cup title game. Amanda Chidester and Delaney Spaulding each blasted two-run homers in the final. Abbott earned MVP honors after allowing just five hits while striking out 23 and walking two in 13 innings. The U.S. outscored its four tournament foes 31-4.
Members of the U.S. women's basketball team celebrate winning the FIBA women's World Cup on Sept. 30, 2018 in Tenerife, Spain.
The U.S. continued its dominance, cruising to the FIBA World Cup gold medal by beating Australia 73-56 in the Canary Islands in September. The Americans went 6-0 en route to their third straight gold medal — a first in U.S. history — and 10th overall. That victory punched Team USA’s ticket to Tokyo for the 2020 Olympics. Brittney Griner led the charge with 15 points, while Diana Taurasi added 13 and Breanna Stewart 10 points and eight rebounds. Stewart was named tournament MVP. Sue Bird became the first male or female player to win four World Cup titles. She also broke Dawn Staley’s World Cup career assists record when she had five in the final to give her 107. Staley, the current U.S. coach, had 103.
The U.S. women's gymnastics team poses for a photo at Gymnastics World Championships on Oct. 27, 2018 in Doha, Qatar.
When it comes to gymnastics, this is Biles’ world and the rest of the world is just looking not to get vaporized. The four-time Olympic gold medalist joined Morgan Hurd, Kara Eaker, Grace McCallum and Riley McCusker in steamrolling their way to the world team title in late October in Qatar, marking the team’s sixth consecutive Olympic or world title dating back to 2011. The win also qualified the U.S. team for Tokyo in 2020. Individually, Biles also racked up a long list of milestones in Doha. She became the first woman to win four all-around titles at the world championships. Oh, the 21-year-old also won a medal in every event at the worlds, becoming the first person in 31 years to do so. Biles walked away with six medals to give her 20 in her worlds career, tying the mark of Russia’s Svetlana Khorkina. And she did all this while battling a kidney stone. But Biles wasn’t the only standout American at worlds. Morgan Hurd was second on the floor exercise and third in the all-around.
The U.S. women's water polo team celebrates victory at the FINA Women's Water Polo World Cup on Sept. 9, 2018 in Surgut, Russia.
What do you say about one of the most dominant programs for Team USA? The Americans defended every title that was on the line, have gone 28-1 and currently own a 26-game winning streak. The biggest accomplishment of 2018 was winning their second straight World Cup title, beating host Russia 8-5 for the gold. The only blemish this year was a 9-8 loss to rival Australia in the first game of the Intercontinental Tournament, a loss the U.S. would avenge in the title game. In addition to the World Cup and Intercontinental titles, Team USA holds the Olympic, world, World League, and Pan American Games championships.
(L-R) Nicole Ross, Margaret Lu, Nzingha Prescod and Lee Kiefer celebrate winning gold in women’s foil team at the FIE World Championships on July 26, 2018 in Wuxi, China.
It was unchartered territory for the Americans in 2018. Team USA opened the 2018-19 world cup season with a bronze, but that was just the tip of the blade. The Americans showed they were on fire this year by capturing their first world cup title, beating Russia 28-27 in Dubai in May. The U.S. remained a force for the rest of the season and completed the unlikely journey with the program’s first world championship by edging South Korea 18-17 in China in July to become the No. 1 ranked team in the world. Kat Holmes, Courtney Hurley, Kelley Hurley and Amanda Sirico comprised the world championship team, while Natalie Vie was also a key contributor during the season.
In addition to those dominant seasons, Team USA teams also thrived on other stages, including:
— The U.S. women’s eight rowing team regained its world title in stellar fashion, grabbing the lead in the second 500 meters and finishing 2.08 seconds ahead of a late-charging Canada. It was the Americans’ 12th world or Olympic title in 13 years, after a long winning streak ended in 2017.
— The inaugural Volleyball Nations League offered $1 million to the winning team, and Team USA was pushed to the limit before edging past Turkey 17-25, 25-22, 26-28, 25-15, 15-7. The two teams had split two five-set matches during round-robin play.
— The U.S. women’s skeet shooting team of Caitlin Connor, Amber English and Kim Rhode won the world title with a world record score in September in South Korea. That was in addition to a historic first podium sweep, with Connor, Rhode and English taking 1-2-3, marking the first time since 1974 the U.S. had swept the podium, male or female, in an open division at worlds.
— USA Wrestling’s largest medal haul at the world championships since 1991 included four medals from the women’s division. Adeline Gray won gold at 76 kg. for her fourth world title, tying for the most by any American, while Sarah Hildebrandt won silver at 53 kg., Tamyra Mensah-Stock bronze at 68 kg. and Mallory Velte bronze at 62 kg. The U.S. came home from Budapest, Hungary, with 12 medals overall.
— One day after a tense victory over Canada in Alabama, the U.S. team handball squad traveled to Montreal knowing a win would send the Americans to the Pan American Games for a chance to qualify for Tokyo. The team didn’t waste the opportunity, dominating early and rolling to a 26-16 victory over Canada to clinch a Pan Am berth for the first time since 2011.
— The U.S. rugby sevens team opened the 2018-19 season in October with a promising start, making it to the gold-medal game, where it lost to powerhouse New Zealand 33-7 in Glendale, Colorado. It marked the second medal performance of the calendar year for the Americans, who claimed bronze with a 21-5 victory over France in Canada. That bronze combined with a silver medal in Dubai in December propelled the U.S. to a fifth-place finish overall in the 2017-18 season, the only season two medals have been won by Team USA. Dubai is the next stop for the 2018-19 world series Nov. 29-30.
Steve Drumwright is a journalist based in Murrieta, California. He is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.