Maggie Steffens, Ashleigh Johnson Lead Team USA Olympic Water Polo Roster

maggie-steffens
Photo Courtesy: CG Sports Network

U.S. Olympic Women’s Water Polo Team Head Coach Adam Krikorian announced the 13 athletes that will be nominated to represent Team USA at the upcoming Tokyo Olympics at a press conference in Los Angeles. Final approval of the selections is required by the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee and will be announced at a later date.  The roster for the two-time defending Olympic champions and three-time defending World Champions features eight returners from the Rio Olympic Games and two-returners from the London Olympic Games. Two-time Olympic champions Maggie Steffens (captain) and Melissa Seidemann anchor a squad that will welcome five first-time Olympians.

“The Olympic games has always been a competition much larger than a sport. It has a role in celebrating the balance of competitions and striving for excellence with peace, unity, empathy and respect for humanity worldwide and cannot be understated. After all this world has been through I would argue that this games in particular will hold even greater meaning,” Krikorian said. “We are incredibly lucky as a staff to coach a group of women who are so amazingly driven, competitive and are always hungry for more in every way. They truly never cease to amaze us.”

Considered the best water polo player on the planet, Maggie Steffens is back for a third attempt at gold, bringing an ability to play any position. Seidemann went through her first two Olympic runs as the most formidable defender around, over the last five years she’s added a heavy dose of center play, dominating on both ends of the pool.

“It is such an honor for us to be up here for me and all of us. It’s more of an honor to get to share it with this group of women. This quad has been different. Our team had to adapt and be different. We had a very challenging tough last couple years. We faced endless adversity from the postponement, the pandemic, individual and team hardships but it was pretty remarkable how through all of that we came out stronger and even more so we came out stronger together and I think that’s where the magic lies with this team,” Maggie Steffens said. “Alone it didn’t really feel possible but together truly anything felt possible through this experience and that’s truly where the magic is for this group. We’re determined, we’re ambitious, this is really only the beginning for us and we look forward to fighting for one another to achieve even more of an Olympic dream and fighting for that Olympic gold not just for each other, not just for the women that came before us as our alumni but for all of you as well.”

Rio gold medalist Ashleigh Johnson is back in the goal for the United States continuing to cement her reputation as the best in class between the pipes. High scoring attackers Rachel Fattal and Maddie Musselman bolster the offensive attack bringing expertise on the power play. Meanwhile, sisters Makenzie Fischer and Aria Fischer have quickly gone from phenoms to veterans. Makenzie adds a dual threat on offense and defense while Aria is the toughest of covers at two-meters. Rounding out the returners is Kaleigh Gilchrist. Dubbed the “Mamba Mission,” Gilchrist’s recovery is complete following a serious leg injury suffered during a fall after the 2019 FINA World Championships in South Korea.

Defender Alys Williams leads the charge on the list of Olympic newcomers. The first woman in program history to be the last cut for a previous Olympic roster and then make the next Games team, Williams brings a perseverance that will be key to a third straight gold. Attacker Stephania Haralabidis is the first left-hander to make the roster since 2008 and adds instant-offense to the team with a lightning quick release. Versatility is a theme on this roster and Paige Hauschild adds to that depth, bringing important length for defense but creativity that makes her dangerous on offense.

Fellow Santa Barbara area native Jamie Neushul makes her first Olympic squad as well, adding another piece to the attack off the bench. Former Cutino Award winner Amanda Longan rounds out the squad at goalkeeper giving Johnson a top flight back-up.

The 13 athletes, led by Maggie Steffens, are the centerpiece of a program that has become the most dominant women’s water polo team on earth. Holding a number one ranking and every major available title since 2014, Team USA enters Tokyo as the favorite to return to the top of the podium. Already the first nation to win two Olympic titles in women’s water polo, the United States previously held a 69-game win streak, the record in the modern era of women’s water polo. This included an undefeated 2019 season where the squad went 37-0 while earning World Championship, World League and Pan American Games crowns.

More Water Polo news

Under a new format for the Tokyo Olympic Games, each nation will declare 12 active players before each match of the competition. The reduction in game day roster size from 13 to 12 was part of an expansion in the overall number of teams competing. The size of the women’s tournament is now at 10 countries, up from eight, making it the largest Olympic women’s water polo tournament ever.

Team USA is the only nation to medal in every Olympic Games featuring women’s water polo. They’ve won gold twice (2012 & 2016), silver twice (2000 & 2008) and bronze once (2004).

U.S. Olympic Women’s Water Polo Team Nominees – Tokyo Olympic Games (Hometown/College/USA Water Polo Club)

Ashleigh Johnson (Miami, FL/Princeton/NYAC)
Maddie Musselman (Newport Beach, CA/UCLA/CdM Aquatics)
Melissa Seidemann (Walnut Creek, CA/Stanford/NYAC)
Rachel Fattal (Seal Beach, CA/UCLA/SOCAL)
Paige Hauschild (Santa Barbara, CA/USC/Santa Barbara 805)
Maggie Steffens (Danville, CA/Stanford/NYAC)
Stephania Haralabidis (Athens, Greece/USC/NYAC)
Jamie Neushul (Isla Vista, CA/Stanford/NYAC)
Aria Fischer (Laguna Beach, CA/Stanford/SET)
Kaleigh Gilchrist (Newport Beach, CA/USC/NYAC)
Makenzie Fischer (Laguna Beach, CA/Stanford/SET)
Alys Williams (Huntington Beach, CA/UCLA/Huntington Beach WPF)
Amanda Longan (Moorpark, CA/USC/Santa Barbara 805)

Head Coach: Adam Krikorian
Assistant Coaches: Dan Klatt and Chris Oeding
Sports Medicine Manager: Larnie Boqurien