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Aiming For Olympic Berth, U.S. Women’s Water Polo Starts Super Final Undefeated In Pool Play

By Karen Price | June 06, 2019, 12:07 p.m. (ET)

Jordan Raney plays the ball in a match against Russia at the FINA World League Super Final on June 6, 2019 in Budapest, Hungary.


Maddie Musselman returned to the U.S. women’s water polo team for the first time since last summer, and now the 2016 Olympic gold medalist is making up for lost time.

Behind a team-leading eight goals from the UCLA standout, the U.S. women’s water polo team cruised through pool play and is now into the meat of the tournament at the 2019 FINA World League Super Final in Budapest, Hungary.

Going undefeated at 3-0, the women are into the quarterfinals as they chase their sixth Super Final title in a row and their 10th in the last 11 years. This year’s Super Final has the added bonus of offering the winner a spot at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020. It’s the first time that an Olympic berth has been on the line at the Super Final.

Team USA, which holds every major championship in the sport, has nine Olympians on the 15-person squad, marking the most the team has had at any tournament since winning in Rio.

“It’s only been a couple of weeks and we're already getting back into the flow of things, so it's really exciting,” Musselman said after the second match, according to Inside the Games. “We still have a long way to go with regards to getting to know each other better in the water and people’s strengths and weaknesses.”

The U.S. women opened the tournament with a tough test from the hosts on Tuesday, as Hungary took an early 2-0 and then a 3-1 lead. After trailing 3-2 in the second quarter, however, the U.S. went on a 4-1 run and led 6-4 at halftime. The Americans were able to stay ahead for the remainder of the match to ultimately win 12-9.

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Musselman led the way for Team USA, earning player of the match honors. She and Stephania Haralabidis led the team with two goals each.

The second match was considerably more lopsided than the first as the U.S. cruised to a 15-4 victory over Canada. Musselman again led the offense with four goals while Amanda Longan made 11 saves and was named player of the match. Six different players scored six goals to start the match, and by halftime the U.S. held a 9-2 lead. Team USA was 5-for-10 on the power play in the victory. 

The Americans’ last opponent in pool play was Russia, and the U.S. came away with a 12-7 victory on Thursday. This time Jordan Raney led the team in scoring with three goals while Musselman continued her streak with another two goals to bring her total to eight in three games. Rachel Fattal also scored a pair of goals while Ashleigh Johnson made eight saves in net. Both are 2016 Olympians.

The U.S. led 5-3 after the first quarter and took a 7-3 lead into the break. Russia tried to come back as each team scored three goals in the third quarter but the U.S. would not relinquish its lead or its undefeated streak in the tournament.

The quarterfinals begin on Friday, with the championship — and Olympic berth — being awarded Sunday.

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.