For the third time in program history the U.S. Olympic Women’s Water Polo Team will play for an Olympic Gold Medal. Team USA topped Australia 11-9 in overtime to advance to the final on Thursday, August 9 at 8pm bst/3pm est/12pm pst. They will take on the winner of the Hungary/Spain semifinal. Maggie Steffens (Danville, CA/Stanford/Diablo) scored four times, including the go-ahead goal in the first overtime, to push the United States to the victory. Betsey Armstrong (Ann Arbor, MI/Michigan/NYAC) posted 11 saves in net as Australia was held scoreless in both overtime periods. Team USA battled back from a penalty called with just one second left in regulation, an error that allowed Australia to tie the match and force extra time. The United States called a timeout without possession of the ball in the final second of the fourth period leading to the penalty call.
The rest of the match was just as close as the finish. Australia started things off with a power play goal from Ash Southern a little over two minutes into the match for a 1-0 lead. They followed with a goal less than a minute later for a 2-0 lead. Team USA got on the board with 1:30 to play in the period when Courtney Mathewson (Anaheim Hills, CA/UCLA/NYAC) delivered on the power play for a 2-1 game. Lauren Wenger (Long Beach, CA/USC/NYAC) followed on the next possession with a shot that ricocheted off the goalie’s hand, off the crossbar, and then back off the goalie’s head and into the cage for a 2-2 game. Australia drew a penalty on their next possession and converted for a 3-2 lead. That was followed by Wenger who came free with two seconds left in the period, evening the match at 3-3 headed to the second quarter.
In the second, it was Team USA striking first when Melissa Seidemann (Walnut Creek, CA/Stanford/Stanford) found the cage at the 5:26 mark for a 4-3 lead. Australia answered seconds later on another goal from Southern for a 4-4 game. Maggie Steffens came calling on the very next possession with a power play goal for a 5-4 lead. She followed that up moments later with a lob shot for a 6-4 score in favor of the United States. Australia rebounded with a goal on their next possession to close within 6-5. Team USA had a chance to rebuild a two goal lead when Annika Dries (Laguna Beach, CA/Stanford/SET) drew a penalty, but Brenda Villa (Commerce, CA/Stanford/Olympic Club) failed to convert and it remained a one goal game at halftime.
The third period was a defensive battle with each side scoring just once. Maggie Steffens broke through first with a goal out of two meters for a 7-5 lead with 2:49 remaining in the period. Less than a minute later Australia responded with a power play score for a 7-6 game as play moved to the fourth. Three minutes into the fourth period it was Jessica Steffens (Danville, CA/Stanford/NYAC) connecting on a power play for an 8-6 lead. Over the next three minutes Australia roared back with two straight power play goals, evening the game at 8-8 with 2:14 left. Seidemann answered the call for Team USA with 1:40 left, hitting on a power play for a 9-8 lead. That led to the closing seconds of regulation where Australia was able to tie the game on the penalty and force overtime.
Team USA dominated the first overtime period, keeping Australia off the board and posting two goals. Maggie Steffens hit the first score on a power play to grab the lead. Then with just three seconds left Kami Craig (Santa Barbara, CA/USC/Santa Barbara WPF) connected out of two meters for an 11-9 lead. The two teams neutralized each other in the second and final overtime period, but the damage had been done by the United States as they claimed the 11-9 win and a berth in the final.
Notes: The United States went 5/11 on power plays and 0/1 on penalties while Australia was 4/7 on power plays and 2/2 on penalties. Southern led the Aussies in scoring with four goals. This is the fourth consecutive time the two teams have met in an Olympic Games. Australia will play for the Bronze Medal, they won the Bronze Medal in 2008.
Scoring – Scoresheet
USA 11 (3, 3, 1, 2) (2, 0) M. Steffens 4, M. Seidemann 2, L. Wenger 2, C. Mathewson 1, J. Steffens 1, K. Craig 1
AUS (3, 2, 1, 3) (0, 0) A. Southern 4, R. Webster 2, N. Zagame 1, G. Ralph 1, G. Beadsworth 1
Saves – USA – B. Armstrong 10 – AUS – A. McCormack 7
6×5 – USA – 5/11 – AUS – 4/7
Penalties – USA – 0/1 – AUS 2/2