Stanford senior Maggie Steffens poured in four goals to pace the USA Women's Senior National Team to a 17-2 victory over Japan to conclude group play at the FINA World Championships in Kazan, Russia.
Team USA finished 2-1 in the prelims and next will face Hungary on Saturday in the second round. That match will decide whether the U.S. advances to the top eight of the tournament.
"It was just another game for experience," said USA coach Adam Krikorian. "We have to feel the World Championship experience. It's important for such a young group and helps us a bit for the big match against Hungary.
"I still wish we had won (the group). It's a good thing to play a tough match (vs. Hungary) against one of the most talented teams in the world. It's a gold-medal game to get into the quarters."
Ashleigh Johnson and Sami Hill split time in net against Japan while recording a combined five saves.
Stanford grad Ashley Grossman added three goals with incoming freshman Makenzie Fischer tallying twice. Recent Stanford grad Kiley Neushul scored once.
Team USA shrugged off a tough loss to Italy on Tuesday night and wasted little time dispatching Japan on Thursday morning. Steffens scored two straight goals to open the match in the first three minutes. Rachel Fattal followed with a score and Kami Craig capped the period with the first of her three goals for a 4-0 lead.
The second quarter was more of the same with Maddie Musselman and Fischer building a 6-0 lead with 5:16 to go in the first half. Steffens and Craig came back with two more goals in the next two minutes to take an 8-0 lead into intermission.
In the third quarter the United States left no doubt in the result piling up six goals. Ahead 12-0, Grossman tacked on the final two USA goals of the period to go ahead 14-0 with 1:44 left.
Following Japan's first score, Team USA cruised to victory comfortably thanks to three more goals from Grossman, Fischer, and Musselman. Team USA went 3 for 5 on power plays and did not attempt a penalty.