London, England – July 30 – Maggie Steffens (Danville, CA/Stanford/Diablo) tied an Olympic Games record with seven goals as the U.S. Olympic Women’s Water Polo outlasted Hungary, 14-13, to open play at the 2012 Olympic Games. Courtney Mathewson (Anaheim Hills, CA/UCLA/NYAC) added four goals and Betsey Armstrong (Ann Arbor, MI/Michigan/NYAC) went the distance in net, stopping six shots in the victory. Team USA never trailed in the high scoring affair but the match was tied on three occasions. Team USA next meets Spain in Group A play on Tuesday at 6:20pm local time/1:20pm est/10:20am pst. The match will air on NBC live in the east at 1:20pm on and on delay in the west at 12:20pm pst.
Steffens started her scoring barrage almost immediately as she punched in a counter attack goal some thirty seconds into the match for a 1-0 lead. Hungary answered on their next possession to even the score at 1-1. A few minutes later Team USA created some temporary breathing room when Steffens scored consecutive goals to grab a 3-1 advantage with 2:56 left. The USA defense stepped up moments later as Armstrong denied a penalty shot try by Hungary. The euphoria was short lived with Hungary finding the cage seconds later to make it a 3-2 match. Less than twenty seconds after that score, it was Mathewson hitting on a power play try and the United States went up 4-2. Hungary would have the last word in the period, scoring on a counter attack goal with just eight seconds to play, drawing to within 4-3 after the first.
Team USA went back in front by a pair when Kelly Rulon (San Diego, CA/UCLA/NYAC) got behind the defense for a score and a 5-3 match. Hungary responded with two straight goals in the next ninety seconds evening the game once more, this time at 5-5. A minute later it was Steffens again, this time on a power play, pushing the United States back in front, 6-5. Then there was more Steffens, on a penalty shot drawn by Rulon, putting the United States ahead 7-5 with 3:33 to play. Hungary showed their resiliency once more, answering with two straight scores to knot the match at 7-7 with 1:48 to play. Steffens answered last in the period hitting on a power play goal with 1:18 to go in the half, her sixth tally giving Team USA an 8-7 lead at halftime.
Hungary wasted little time tying the match in the third, finding the cage early in the period to make the score 8-8. The United States answered with two straight goals, the first from Kami Craig (Santa Barbara, CA/USC/Santa Barbara WPF) on a power play in front of the cage, and the second on a skipshot from Steffens. Trailing 10-8, the Hungarians started to chip away with a power play score at the 3:41 mark of the period, closing to within 10-9. Team USA looked to squash the Hungarian rally with a goal late in the third by Brenda Villa (Commerce, CA/Stanford/Olympic Club) and early in the fourth by Mathewson, to take a 12-9 lead, their biggest advantage of the match.
The contest was far from over as Hungary scored two straight goals closing to within 12-11 with 6:16 to play. Two minutes later Mathewson completed the hat trick with her third goal, on a power play, giving the United States a 13-11 lead. Hungary responded with a power play score of their own with 2:18 left, but the USA turned back to Mathewson who connected from distance for a 14-12 lead. Hungary mounted one final charge getting a backhand from Barbara Bujka, her fourth goal of the match, to close within one at 14-13 with less than a minute to play. Future attempts by Hungary would be foiled by the United States and Team USA hung on for the one goal victory.
Notes: USA went 6/11 on power plays and 1/1 on penalty shots while Hungary was 4/10 on power plays and 0/1 on penalties. Maggie Steffens’ seven goals equaled the output by Danielle de Bruijn (NED) in the Gold Medal match of the 2008 Olympic Games. The seven goals are also a record for an Olympic debut. The victory over Hungary marked the sixth consecutive win over the Hungarians in 2012. The two teams met at the test event in London in May and then in a four game series in California earlier this month. Team USA also defeated Hungary, 7-6, to open play at the 2004 Olympic Games.
Scoring – Scoresheet
USA 14 (4, 4, 3, 3) M. Steffens 7, C. Mathewson 4, B. Villa 1, K. Craig 1, K. Rulon 1
HUN 13 (3, 4, 2, 4) B. Bujka 4, D. Antal 3, G. Szucs 2, O. Takacs 1, R. Dravucz 1, I. Toth 1, D. Csabai 1
Saves – USA- B. Armstrong 6 – HUN – F. Bolonyai 4
6×5 – USA – 6/11 – HUN – 4/10
Penalties – USA – 1/1 – HUN 0/1
Adam KRIKORIAN (USA) – head coach
On the performance of Maggie STEFFENS (USA), who scored seven goals:
“Not bad. She played great, but a win is never up to a individual. This is not basketball – here you need some help.”
On the team’s performance:
“We made some bad mistakes, which were down to us being anxious. We need more composure.”
Betsey ARMSTRONG (USA)
On the defence:
“There are a lot of different defence methods and there was a lot of scrambling throughout the game, so perhaps we need to be more organised.”
On the referee:
“We are both very physical teams and the refs gave a lot of input to the game. It is expected to be tighter at this level.”
Maggie STEFFENS (USA)
On scoring seven of the 14 goals:
“It’s not easy at all. I wanted the ball in the net. It’s go, go, go, and you try to practice for this, but nothing compares to the feeling of adrenaline.”
On equaling the record, set by Danielle DE BRUIJN (NED) against the USA at Beijing 2008, for the most individual goals (seven) scored in a match:
“I had no idea that they kept records like that. I was just thinking about what the next play was. That’s very much the USA mindset. It’s not about the goals, it’s about the games you win and that’s what takes you through, hopefully to the very end.”
On the match:
“The first game is always rough and it was great to play an aggressive fast team like Hungary and get everything out there and get through the nerves.”
On the team:
“It’s an awesome family – there’s a lot of depth and we’re all friends. Water Polo is all about setting up. It’s important to see the whole game, not one player. It’s totally a team sport.”
On making her Olympic debut:
“It was really fun to get out there and finally play. We’ve been waiting a week and it’s good to get over the jitters.”