Sports

Stanford's newest standout keeps a water polo tradition intact

 

Maggie Steffens was a FINA women's water polo Player of the Year before she scored her first goal for Stanford. Makenzie Fischer may not yet be a candidate for such an honor, but she's certainly creating her own buzz with the U.S. national team this summer.

Fischer, who leads the Americans with 27 goals this year, earned MVP honors when the U.S. won the FINA Intercontinental tournament championship last month. She's a 6-foot-1 attacker who has scored in all 14 matches this season.


Incoming Stanford freshman Makenzie Fischer leads the U.S. Women's Senior National Team in scoring. Photo courtesy of USA Water Polo.
Fischer, who completed her high school career at Laguna Beach High, signed to play at Stanford, though she could join several other Cardinal athletes in delaying their entrance to prepare for the 2016 Rio Olympics.

Whatever the case, Fischer helps give Stanford another potential NCAA championship in the future, despite the loss of several key seniors.

In the meanwhile, she's helping the U.S. national team in its quest toward a FINA World League Super Final championship, joining Stanford grads Kiley Neushul, Melissa Seidemann, Ashley Grossman and Annika Dries, and future Cardinal teammates Gabby Stone and Steffens. Sacred Heart Prep grad KK Clark, a UCLA grad, is also on the team.

The Americans advanced into Friday's quarterfinal match against Russia after beating the Netherlands, 8-3, on the final day of pool play Thursday in Shanghai, China.

The U.S. lost its first match of the year in March (to Italy) and has won 14 straight since. Team USA could get a rematch with Italy at the Super Final.

Fischer was also on last year's Super Final championship team, scoring five goals. Steffens, the MVP of the 2012 London Olympics, scored 11 goals last year.

Neushul, the two-time college Player of the Year, has scored in seven straight matches, while Steffens has scored in six of seven, a total of 14. Clark has six goals in the past five matches. Grossman and Seidemann have combined for another 18 goals on the year.

Steffens, a defender, scored 38 goals before her 18th birthday, having played with the senior national team since 2010. Fischer scored 12 international goals before she turned 18 in March.

Fischer is one of two high school players with the national team. Maddie Musselman, 16, will be a senior at Corona del Mar in the fall. They're part of a great mix of young and veterans that includes 28-year-old Courtney Mathewson and 27-year-old Sami Hill.

Seidemann and Clark are the next oldest, with both of them turning 25 later in June, two days apart.

The win over the Netherlands left the U.S. with a 3-0 record in pool play. The Americans have won all three meetings with the Dutch, with all three being played in the past 10 days.

Steffens scored twice in the contest, while Fischer, Clark, Neushul and Grossman also scored. Princeton goalie Ashleigh Johnson recorded 11 saves in the net.

All three of the Netherlands goals came on power plays while the U.S. was 1 of 5.

The Americans won the Kunshan Cup in China last week, with the U.S. beating the Dutch, 18-9, in the championship game. Steffens and Fischer each scored three goals in the contest while Neushul and Grossman each scored twice.

Following the Super Finals, most of the national team will get a break until the FINA World Championships in Kazan, Russia, which begin July 26.

Steffens, Neushul, Grossman and Stone are eligible to play in the Pan American Games that start July 7 in Toronto. Stanford's NCAA title team will represent the country at the event.

Fischer may welcome the respite, having already played matches in Rome, New Zealand and China.

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