US Women’s Water Polo Repeats With Olympic Gold

Photo Courtesy: Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports


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By Dan D’Addona

The U.S. women’s water polo team completed an undefeated, dominating Olympic run that looked to put a stamp on the beginning of a dynasty.

The U.S. dominated Italy 12-5 in the gold medal match at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games on Friday to become the first women’s team in history to earn back-to-back Olympic gold medals.

The Americans dominated on both sides of the ball throughout the tournament, highlighted in Friday’s final.

How dominating? The U.S. team was behind for only 44 seconds of the entire tournament, pushing its unbeaten streak to 22 matches.

The U.S. outscored opponents by a stunning 73-32 in Rio completing an emotional tournament for coach Adam Krikorian, who lost his brother just before the opening match.

“It was hitting me pretty hard. I was thinking about my brother and about how hard this journey has been. It would have been very selfish of me to let what happened to me personally effect this group. These girls have worked so hard for four years and some have worked their entire lives for this moment.

“Who am I, regardless of what happened to my family, to ruin that for them. It was very important that I stayed focused. I realised it’s not about me, it’s about the team.”

Goalie Ashleigh Johnson, who became the first African-American woman to play water polo in the Olympics, continued to impress. She made nine saves and solidified her spot as Team USA’s rising star, holding Italy to a single goal in each of the final three quarters.

“She’s incredible. She is a competitor at its finest. Doesn’t matter what the score is, she wants to get that block and do it for our team. One of the things she said was when she makes a stop and immediately she can see the fire in our eyes because she was able to inspire her teammates,” said tournament MVP Maggie Steffens. “She always had our back.”

Meanwhile, Steffens dominated everywhere else in the pool. Like she has the entire tournament, Steffens got her teammates involved and showcased the team’s balanced offensive attack.

Kiley Neushul scored three goals to lead the U.S., while Makenzie Fischer and Rachel Fattal each scored twice.

Team USA started the knockout rounds by routing host Brazil 13-3 in the quarterfinals, then topping Hungary 14-10 in the semifinals.

The Americans now hold the past two Olympic gold medals, as well as the latest world championship, World Cup title and World League Super Final title.

Italy goalie Giulia Gorlero had the highest save percentage of any goalie in Rio and managed nine saves against the potent U.S. attack.

Russia took home the bronze, beating Hungary 19-18 on penalty shots. It’s the first women’s medal for Russia since 2000 in water polo.