U.S. Women’s Water Polo Wins Pan Am Games, Qualifies for Paris Olympics

Photo Courtesy: USA Water Polo

U.S. Women’s Water Polo Wins Pan Am Games, Qualifies for Paris Olympics

The U.S. women’s water polo team didn’t break a sweat in winning the Pan Am Games, ensuring they qualify for the Paris Olympics to try and defend their gold medal.

The U.S. used five goals each from Rachel Fattal and Jenna Flynn to handle Canada, 20-11, in the final on Saturday. It’s the sixth time that the United States has won the Pan Am Games, and it ensures the Americans will feature in the Olympics for the seventh straight time. The U.S. has been part of every women’s water polo tournament since it was included in the Olympics in 2000. The U.S. has won the last three gold medals.

The U.S. women were coming off a World Championships in which they finished fifth to end a streak of four straight gold medals.

The Americans were rarely challenged in Santiago, Chile, outscoring opponents by a combined score of 167-16. The group stage brought three rampages – 35-0 over Chile, 29-0 over Puerto Rico and 25-3 over Brazil.

Maggie Steffens scored seven goals and Flynn six in the quarterfinal win over Mexico, 32-1.

Four players – Flynn, Fattal, Ava Johnson and Jordan Raney – scored four times each in dispatching Argentina, 27-1, in the semifinal.

The final brought a challenge, Canada within 10-7 at half. But the U.S. pulled away with six goals in the third quarter. They connected on eight of 12 extra-player opportunities.

Fattal scored twice straight out of the break. Raney and Jewel Roemer added fourth-quarter goals as Canada got no closer than six goals in the fourth. Ashleigh Johnson made seven saves.

Hayley McKelvey scored four goals for Canada in the final. Serena Browne and Verica Bakoc each recorded hat tricks.

For the tournament, Flynn led the United States with 28 goals, converting at an 85 percent clip. Steffens, the most outstanding player at the 2012 and 2016 Olympics, scored 21 goals in the first four games before just one in each of the last two. Fattal picked up the slack with 21 total goals. Every player on the team scored at least seven times, with nine getting into double figures. (The U.S. was playing without Maddie Musselman, the most outstanding player at the Tokyo Olympics, due to an injury.)

Ashleigh Johnson made 40 saves in the tournament, splitting time with Amanda Longan, who made 11 stops.

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