Ashleigh Johnson competes at the Pan American Games Lima 2019 on Aug. 10, 2019 in Lima, Peru.
The U.S. women’s water polo team is starting over. The squad’s 69-game winning streak, believed to be the longest in the sport’s modern era for women, was snapped in a 10-9 loss to Australia on Thursday in Brisbane.
The defeat marked the first for Team USA since April 2, 2018.
Thursday’s game was the second in a three-game series Down Under, with the rubber match set for Saturday.
Over the past two quads, and especially the past two years, the U.S. has put together an utterly dominant string of results, with the Americans maintaining a stranglehold on each of the sport’s major championships since 2014.
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The U.S. win streaks at the major tournaments are:
Olympic Games: 2012, 2016
World Championships: 2015, 2017, 2019
FINA World Cup: 2010, 2014, 2018
FINA World League: 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019
Team USA is also holders of the last five Pan American Games gold medals, dating back to 2003, as well as the 2018 and ’19 FINA Intercontinental Tournament. To find the last major tournament not won by the U.S. you have to go all the way back to the 2013 world championships, when Team USA finished fifth.
Australia also handed the U.S. its previous loss, defeating the Americans 8-9 in the 2018 Intercontinental Tournament opener in Auckland, New Zealand. Since then, Team USA has been unstoppable against all comers. The U.S. won its final 31 matches in 2018, went 37-0 in 2019 and then won its first game of 2020 in the series opener against Australia.
Before the U.S. won 69 games in a row, the previous modern era record is believed to have been 49 straight wins. The modern era began in 2000.
In Thursday’s game, Australia jumped out to a 3-1 lead only for the U.S. to battle back and tie things up by halftime. However, after a tense second half the Australians pulled ahead on a penalty shot with 30 seconds remaining. Two-time Olympian Maggie Steffens led the U.S. with three goals, while 2016 Olympian Kaleigh Gilchrist added two.
Chrös McDougall has covered the Olympic and Paralympic movements for TeamUSA.org since 2009 on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc. He is based in Minneapolis-St. Paul.