The mission had been accomplished for the USA Water Polo Women's National Team, but there were still two more games to play and a gold medal up for grabs.
Just two days after punching a ticket to the 2016 Olympic Games, Team USA kept up its winning ways by capping a perfect eight days of water polo with an 11-6 comeback win over Italy to take gold at the Olympic Qualification Tournament on Monday in Gouda, Netherlands.
Using a 6-1 margin in the second half, Team USA turned a one-goal deficit in the second quarter into a five-goal victory behind three goals from incoming Stanford freshman Makenzie Fischer.
Goalie Ashleigh Johnson did the job in net while picking up 10 saves.
It became a habit through the first seven games for the United States to score first and it did once more against Italy when Fischer got on the board with her first goal. This time, Italy had an answer moments later drawing even at 1-1.
After Stanford senior Maggie Steffens scored on a lob for a 2-1 lead, Italy answered once again. Stanford grad Kiley Neushul scored at the 2:06 mark to push Team USA ahead 3-2, but the Italinas scored two straight goals at the end of the first for a 4-3 advantage. The score marked the first time Team USA had trailed all week.
The second quarter saw Courtney Mathewson score the first of her two goals to even the game at 4. Italy retook the lead at 5-4, but that was as good as things would get for the Italians. Fischer closed the scoring in first half with a goal for a 5-5 game.
Not long after, with about 20 seconds to play in the half, Team USA head coach Adam Krikorian was given a red card and ejected from the match for arguing a perceived missed call. As Team USA went into half tied at 5, the departure of its coach seemed to ignite the group.
In the third quarter, the U.S. tallied three unanswered goals for an 8-5 lead going to the fourth. Things were clearly going the way of Team USA in the fourth quarter when Neushul lost the handle on a shot fake only to watch accurately fly over the goalie's head and into the net for a 9-5 lead. Fischer followed with her third goal to make it 10-5 and seal the top of the podium for the U.S.
Team USA converted five of nine power plays and finished the tournament with a perfect record and wins over Japan, Canada, Spain (twice), Greece, South Africa, France, and Italy. The Americans outscored their opponents by a total of 123-35.