London, England – August 9 – The U.S. Olympic Women’s Water Polo Team won their first ever Olympic gold medal tonight with an 8-5 defeat of Spain in the championship match of the 2012 Olympic Games. Maggie Steffens (Danville, CA/Stanford/Diablo) scored five goals to lead Team USA on offense while Betsey Armstrong (Ann Arbor, MI/Michigan/NYAC) posted eight saves, including a penalty shot stop, to anchor the defense. Steffens and Armstrong were both named to the Olympic All-Star Team with Steffens leading the tournament in scoring with 21 goals. The gold medal is the first in team history for the USA Women and is added to a collection that includes two silver medals (2000,2008) and a bronze medal (2004).
The first quarter was low on offense as each team’s defense was able to control the power play. Spain struck first with 5:32 in the period to grab a 1-0 lead. It wasn’t until :50 left in the period that Team USA broke through on a power play score from Maggie Steffens, evening the match at 1-1. That was the score headed into the second period.
Things opened up offensively after that with Spain scoring the first goal of the period on a power play to go up 2-1. It was all Team USA moving forward. Heather Petri (Orinda, CA/California/NYAC) scored on a lob shot to the tie the game at 2-2. That was followed by another goal from Maggie Steffens on a dish from sister Jessica Steffens (Danville, CA/Stanford/NYAC) and the red, white, and blue took their first lead at 3-2. Melissa Seidemann (Walnut Creek, CA/Stanford/Stanford) added with a power play goal of her own for a 4-2 lead with 4:04 remaining in the first half. The scoring closed out with another from Steffens, this time out of two meters, for a 5-2 lead. Armstrong halted a shot by Spain in the final seconds of the period and the United States led by three at the break.
In the third the United States dominated on defense keeping Spain off the board. In the meantime Team USA scored two more goals of their own. The first came on a drawn penalty converted by Maggie Steffens and the second was a goal from Brenda Villa (Commerce, CA/Stanford/Olympic Club) for a 7-2 lead after three periods. Early in the fourth Team USA completed a 7-0 run the blew the game open. Armstrong blocked a penalty shot try by Spain and then sent a pass down to a streaking Steffens for a counter attack score and an 8-2 lead with 7:32 to play. Spain would try to rally over the remainder of the period and after scoring twice they closed to within 8-4 with 4:05 remaining. The United States would do the job the rest of the way on defense allowing just one more goal, with :54 left, and Team USA came away Olympic Games champions by a final count of 8-5.
USA 8 (1, 4, 2, 1) M. Steffens 5, H. Petri 1, M. Seidemann 1, B. Villa 1
ESP 5 (1, 1, 0, 3) J. Pareja 3, A. Espar Llaquet 2
Saves – USA – B. Armstrong 8 – ESP – L. Ester Ramos 2
6×5 – USA – 1/6 – ESP – 3/10
Penalties – USA 1/1 – ESP – 0/1