The U.S women's water polo team poses during the medal ceremony at the 2019 FINA World Championships on July 26, 2019 in Gwangju, South Korea.
Five years ago, the U.S. women’s water polo team made history by becoming the first ever to win back-to-back gold medals at the Olympic Games.
Now the No. 1 team in the world is moving ever closer to the chance to extend that unprecedented run in Tokyo this summer, and their championship win at the FINA World League Super Final on Saturday proved it’s a mark well within reach.
This was the last major international competition before the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.
The U.S. won its seventh consecutive FINA World League Super Final title, and 14th overall, with a 14-8 victory over Hungary.
Leading the team in the final match was two-time Olympic MVP Maggie Steffens with four goals, followed by Maddie Musselman and Rachel Fattal, who would be competing in their second Olympic Games this summer, with three goals apiece. Many of the players who were first-time Olympians in Rio are now the veteran leaders of the team, and their contributions led to an undefeated run in the tournament in Greece.
Hungary kept it close in the early going, but the U.S. always had an answer. After Hungary scored to pull within one goal of the U.S. halfway through the second quarter, Fattal scored on the power play to make it 5-3. Team USA led 6-3 at halftime, with three goals from Steffens and four saves for goalkeeper Ashleigh Johnson, but after a late third-quarter rally by Hungary the U.S. held a slim 9-7 lead going into the fourth. Hungary closed within one goal with five minutes left in the game, but Fattal made it 10-8, followed by Makenzie Fischer with a score and another by Fattal with just over three minutes to play.
The U.S. opened tournament play on Monday with a 16-9 win over Greece, led by Musselman, Stephanie Haralabidis and Fattal with three goals and Ashleigh Johnson with 11 saves.
Next up was Kazakhstan, which turned into a 20-2 romp care of nine first-quarter goals. Three were from Musselman, while Haralabidis led all scorers with five goals. Amanda Longan made 14 saves and shut Kazakhstan out in the second half.
The U.S. closed out group play with an 18-9 win over Spain led by Fattal with five goals.
Nine different players scored in a 20-6 win over Japan in the quarterfinals that launched them into the semis against Russia. Musselman, Fischer and Haralabidis led the way with three goals apiece in the 17-8 victory to set up the gold-medal match against Hungary.