Olympics: Maggie Steffens Sets Olympic Scoring Record in Romp Over Russia

Jul 30, 2021; Tokyo, Japan; USA player Margaret Steffens (6) controls the balls against ROC during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Summer Games at Tatsumi Water Polo Centre. Mandatory Credit: Michael Madrid-USA TODAY Sports
Maggie Steffens; Photo Courtesy: Michael Madrid-USA TODAY Sports

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Olympics: Maggie Steffens Sets Olympic Scoring Record in Romp Over Russia

Maggie Steffens scored four times Friday, giving her 49 career Olympic goals to set the all-time tournament record. The goals helped the U.S. women’s water polo team bounce back from its first Olympic loss in 13 years with an 18-5 drubbing of Russia.

Steffens needed three goals entering the game. She got the record-breaker at 5:32 of the third quarter on a counterattack goal. The two-time gold medalist climbed past the 47 goals set by Italy’s Tania Di Mario, who took part in four Games from 2004-16.

“I think it’s definitely really, really cool for our sport and honestly for our team,” Steffens said. “Our team is constantly looking at ways to propel the sport forward. I’ve had so many incredible support systems, so many great leaders on this team, to be (able to be) in this position. So as much as it’s definitely cool, and I appreciate it, you can’t have that without teammates, you can’t have that without a path, you can’t have that without even being able to play the sport with, you know, women, who you train with and dream with.

“As much as this is cool to have my name attached to it, it’s really about our team and our culture, and the women that came before me.”

By the time Steffens attained the record, the U.S. was up 11-3 and on its way to a 3-1 record in pool play, rebounding from the loss to Hungary on Wednesday. Steffens would add her 49th goal 40 seconds later as the U.S. outscored Russia, 9-2, after the break to put the game away. She has a team-high 11 goals this tournament, despite breaking her nose in the second group game against China.

With the record done and dusted, Steffens can refocus her attention on the quest for a third straight gold medal for the U.S.

“I’m glad she did it in this game so we can get over it and move on to things that are more important,” coach Adam Kirkorian said. “Obviously it’s a credit to her and the type of player she is. I think what’s more amazing about Maggie is, it’s not the goals she scores, or how many, it’s the efficiency in which she does it. That’s the sign of a great player. She doesn’t force the issue, she lets the game come to her, and especially in this situation when you know that record is looming.”

Steffens and Stephanie Haralabidis scored four goals each. Paige Hauschild added a hat trick, and Makenzie Fischer scored twice. Ashleigh Johnson bounced back from a rough outing against Hungary by stopping 16 shots. She allowed only three even-strength goals.

Haralabidis scored twice in the first quarter to stake the U.S. to a 5-1 lead. Russia got as close as 7-3 before the U.S. closed the second half with goals from Steffens and Rachel Fattal within the last 68 seconds of the first half to make it a 9-3 margin at the break.

It’s exactly the kind of bounce-back performance Krikorian wanted to see.

“This is an extremely competitive group,” he said. “They don’t like to lose and part of the reason why we’ve had this sustained success is they just take pride in the way they play. I think from frustration, to anger, to sadness, to relief, I think we’ve felt all of those emotions over the last two days.

“The things that we talked about were really just trying to get back to playing the right way, making the right play, making the right decisions.”