Sports

USA women claim historic water polo victory at worlds

 

Kiley Neushul, one of six players on the United States women's senior national water polo team affiliated with Stanford, scored a goal in the Americans' historic 5-4 victory over the Netherlands on Friday in the championship contest of the FINA World Championships in Kazan, Russia.

Team USA (27-2 on the year) became the first team in history to hold Olympic, World Championship, World Cup and World League crowns at the same time.

"It hasn't really sunk in yet," U.S. assistant coach Chris Oeding said. "I was involved in the last couple and it's incredible and each is unique in its own way. We have so many new kids on the team. It's their first."

Netherlands was denied a second gold medal after winning in Perth in 1991 and now has five silver medals from this event. For the USA, it was a fourth title after victories in 2003, 2007 and 2009. Twice champion Italy won the bronze medal over Australia in a penalty shootout, closing the match at 7-7 and winning the penalties 5-3 for a 12-10 victory.

"It was surreal," Fattal said. "We played well together, we were balanced and our defense was nails. There are a lot of newcomers to the team."

Cardinal grads Neushul, Melissa Seidemann, Ashley Grossman and Annika Dries joined senior Maggie Steffens and incoming freshman Makenzie Fischer as major contributors this year. Dries, Jessica and Maggie Steffens, Seidemann and grad Brenda Villa played on the Olympic gold-medal team. Menlo Park resident KK Clark is also a member of the senior national team.

USA trailed only in the first period, and had a two-goal margin for much of the final period.

Dutch captain Yasemin Smit scored the opening goal at 1:59, with a bouncer on the right side of the pool. Rachel Fattal, voted Most Valuable Player of the tournament, scored early in the second period to tie it and Madeline Musselman added another.

The game was tied at 3 when Neushul scored at 4:36 of the third period and Courtney Mathewson scored late in the period for a 5-3 edge.

Princeton goalie Ashleigh Johnson blocked a penalty shot midway through the final quarter and made two crucial saves that gave U.S. the victory.

"Ash Johnson is just an amazing player and we played as a team the whole time," Fattal said. "If you have an amazing goalkeeper behind you in defense, it leads to a good offense."

— Palo Alto Online Sports/FINA

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