(L-R) Amanda Longan, Marggie Steffens, Stephanie Haralabidis, Paige Hauschild and Kaleigh Gilchrist celebrate their win during the women's semifinal at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 on Aug. 5, 2021 in Tokyo.
The U.S. water polo teams take to the water this week in Budapest, Hungary, for the 19th FINA World Championships — one seeking to continue its dominance in the event, the other searching for its first medal.
Arguably no team in international sports has been as successful as the U.S. women over the past decade. The holders of every major championship in their sport, multiples times over, the Americans are seeking their fourth-straight world title and seventh overall.
They are coming off another dominant performance last year at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, where they won a third consecutive gold medal.
Although a bronze medal behind Australia and Canada at the FINA Intercontinental Cup in March might look like a return to earth for this high-flying dynasty, that result was deceiving because the U.S. roster was without most of its top players.
That’s not the case in Budapest.
Coach Adam Krikorian has a roster of 13 athletes and two alternates, with seven Tokyo Olympians and eight returning world champions on the team. Leading the charge is captain Maggie Steffens, who already has three Olympic gold medals and three world titles to her name.
The all-time leading scorer in Olympic women’s history, Steffens at 29 remains one of the most lethal offensive players in the world.
And she’s joined in Budapest by Ashleigh Johnson, Maddie Musselman, Rachel Fattal, Stephania Haralabidis, Kaleigh Gilchrist, Amanda Longan and Jordan Raney, who were all part of the 2019 team that won a world title in Gwangju, South Korea.
For all of their success, the U.S. players have maintained their high level in part by not dwelling on it. That’s the case again this week.
“This is our first tournament together as a team, this team,” Steffens told TeamUSA.org via email. “So, although it is easy to compare since we have some returners and the Olympics were just last year, this journey is still very fresh. With that, we have fresh energy, fresh talent, and a fresh perspective to add to the experience we carry from our past.
“We are excited to build this new team together and take advantage of every opportunity we have to improve, learn and grow. But as always, we are hungry to be our very best and hungry to be the last team in the pool.”