USA women open defense of water polo gold with a victory


Stanford senior Maggie Steffens and Cardinal Kiley Neushul each scored twice and Menlo Park resident KK Clark added a goal as the U.S. Olympic women's water polo team downed Spain, 11-4, in its Rio opener Tuesday.

The U.S. and Spain met for Olympic gold in London four years ago to the day, with the Americans picking up where they left off.

Ashleigh Johnson earned the win in net, stopping 11 shots, including a penalty shot.

Team USA returns to play on Thursday when it meets China, coached by Richard Azevedo.

Neushul jump-started Team USA with their first two goals, the first of which came less than 30 seconds into the match. She followed with a power play strike with 4:31 to play in the quarter to build a 2-0 lead.

USC's Anna Espar put Spain on the board not long after, but the United States had an immediate answer with consecutive goals from Maddie Musselman and Kami Craig for a 4-1 lead after the first period.

Team USA blew the game open in the second quarter as Rachel Fattal and Courtney Mathewson scored in the opening two minutes to make it a 6-1 advantage.

Beatriz Ortiz tried to halt the rally scoring for Spain but Makenzie Fischer came right back with a penalty shot score to give the United States a 7-2 lead at halftime.

In the third Maica Garcia scored the first and last goal of the period but in between that came two scores from Steffens to leave the Americans ahead 9-4 after three periods.

The United States defense clamped down in the fourth holding Spain scoreless while Mathewson and Clark added goals.

The United States went 2-of-4 on power plays and 2-of-2 on penalty shots while Spain was 0-of-8 on power plays and 0-of-1 on penalty shots.

USA coach Adam Krikorian returned to Rio in time for the game, following the passing of his brother, Blake Krikorian, on August 3.

— USA Water Polo

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