Rio de Janeiro, Brazil - August 19 - The U.S. Olympic Women's Water Polo Team made history in Rio becoming the first ever team to win consecutive Olympic titles in women's water polo. The latest gold medal moment came at the expense of Italy who was dealt a decisive 12-5 loss in the championship match. Kiley Neushul (Goleta, CA/Stanford/Santa Barbara) led all scorers with three goals in an onslaught that never relented. Team captain Maggie Steffens (Danville, CA/Stanford/NYAC) added a goal and was named MVP of the Olympic Games, repeating the same feat from London. Ashleigh Johnson (Miami, FL/Princeton/NYAC) swatted away nine shots including a penalty shot stop and was named the tourney's top goalkeeper. For more on USA Water Polo at the 2016 Olympic Games, click here.
In her likely final match with Team USA it was veteran Courtney Mathewson (Anaheim Hills, CA/UCLA/NYAC) who opened the scoring with a goal for a quick 1-0 lead. Italy immediately responded on a Federica Radicchi goal to tie the match at 1-1 with 5:35 to play in the first and that was as close as Italy would get on this day. Neushul followed with her first goal followed by Kami Craig (Santa Barbara, CA/USC/NYAC) on a catch and shoot for a 3-1 lead. Makenzie Fischer (Laguna Beach, CA/Laguna Beach HS/SET) ended the period with a goal with just nine seconds left to put Team USA up 4-1.
Italy looked to claw back in the second as Radicchi hit to make it 4-2. Rachel Fattal (Seal Beach, CA/UCLA/SOCAL) scored on the very next possession for Team USA for a 5-2 lead. After Italy scored on the counter to make it 5-3 USA at halftime the Americans started to rebuild the advantage.
Fattal and Neushul scored to open the third leaving Team USA ahead 7-3 with 4:47 left in the period. Melissa Seidemann (Walnut Creek, CA/Stanford/NYAC) came back with a score with less than two minutes to play and after an Italy goal it was Steffens scoring for a 9-4 lead after three. Johnson came up with a huge save in the period halting an Italy penalty shot attempt.
Makenzie Fischer went back to work scoring in the first minute of the fourth quarter to expand the USA lead to 10-4. With 5:20 to play Maddie Musselman (Newport Beach, CA/Corona del Mar HS/CdM Aquatics) found the back of the net for an 11-4 lead. Neushul put the game on ice with a score with less than a minute to play to give the United States a 12-4 lead en route to the 12-5 final.
The power play was not a major factor in the match today with Team USA going 0/3 on the advantage and 1/1 on penalties while Italy was 0/2 on power plays and 0/1 on penalty shots.
In addition to the honors for Steffens and Johnson, Musselman was named to the Media All-Star Team. The USA Women have now medaled in every Olympic Games to offer women's water polo.
2016 - Gold
2012 - Gold
2008 - Silver
2004 - Bronze
2000 - Silver
They maintain their hold of all the major championships in women's water polo including Olympic Games, World Championship, World Cup and World League Super Final.
Adam Krikorian (USA) - coach
On his emotions nearing the end of the game after the death of his brother before the tournament:
"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."
On what it means to him that his players put all their gold medals around his neck at the end:
"It means my neck hurts for a few seconds. Honestly though it means a ton, no doubt. I'm not going to say that it doesn't make your heart warm. I will say though that it's the daily interaction and the relationships I have with this team means more to me than any medal."
On the woman he hugged at the end of the match:
"That was my wife. I told her not to come down here but we were at practice yesterday and I was walking towards the pool by myself and all of a sudden I hear my name being shouted. I looked over and my first thought was 'who's this good looking woman calling my name?'
"She came a little closer and I realised it was my wife. She flew in to be here with me for the last two days and that was a really emotional moment."
Maggie Steffens (USA) - gold
On the make-up of the team with 'kids' and veterans:
"These are strong, inspiring women. Definitely not kids. They may have come in similar to how I was last squad as just a little pup trying to learn and soak in all the advice and experience from the older girls. But at the end of the day, it doesn't matter your age, it doesn't matter how many Olympics you have been to, we are here to play and play for one another.
"They showed that throughout the games. We had such a threat no matter who was in the water. It didn't matter who was defending, or who was in centre, or who was scoring goals, somebody else was going to do it the next game or continue doing it."
On the play of goalkeeper Ashleigh Johnson (USA):
"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. She always had our back."
On not being complacent coming in as favourites:
"Our coach does a good job of making sure that we remember you're only as good as your next game. It doesn't matter what happened the day before, it doesn't matter what happened four years prior. It matters what you do right now."
Scoring - Scoresheet
USA 12 (4, 1, 4, 3) K. Neushul 3, M. Fischer 2, R. Fattal 2, M. Musselman 1, M. Seidemann 1, M. Steffens 1, C. Mathewson 1, K. Craig 1
ITA 5 (1, 2, 1, 1) F. Radicchi 2, T. di Mario 1, R. Bianconi 1, G. Emmolo 1
Saves - USA - A. Johnson 9, S. Hill - 2 - ITA - G. Gorlero 9
6x5 - USA - 0/3 - ITA 0/2
Penalties - USA - 1/1 - ITA - 0/1
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