Stanford grad Maggie Steffens scored twice to help the United States senior women's USA water polo team beat international rival Australia, 8-6, in the semifinals of the FINA World Championships in Kazan, Russia on Wednesday and advance to its first goal medal match in the event in six years.
The Americans (5-1, 26-2) meet the Netherlands in Friday's championship. The teams have met three times this season, including the title contest of the Kunshan Cup.
The Americans won all three meetings, though the Dutch women have closed the gap each time. The U.S. won their last meeting, 8-5, in the semifinals of the FINA World League Super Final.
Team USA, which has won four tournament titles to date, is looking for its first FINA world title since beating Canada in 2009, and its fourth overall.
The Netherlands reached the championship in each of the first four tournaments. The event was established in 1986. The Dutch took the gold medal in 1991. The U.S. won its first title in 2003 after earning bronze medals in 1986 and 1991.
Incoming Stanford freshman Makenzie Fischer gave the Americans their first lead at 4-3 with 5:07 remaining to play in the second quarter. Steffens tied it earlier in the period.
The Aussie Stingers regained the lead at 5-4 with just under three minutes left but Rachel Fattal evened the contest with a buzzer-beating goal.
Steffens, Fattal and Stanford grad Melissa Seidemann scored the first three goals of the second half to give the U.S. a comfortable margin en route to the victory.
Ashleigh Johnson had 10 saves for the Americans and a 60.6 percent success rate.
The Netherlands advanced with a 10-9 victory over Italy in a shootout. The Italians outscored the Dutch, 4-0, in the second half to force the penalty phase.
Both goalies were outstanding. The Netherlands' Laura Aarts recorded 12 saves for 70.6 percent success rate while Giulia Gorlero had 10 saves for the Italians and a 67 percent success rate.