Kazan, Russia – August 5 – For the first time since 2009 the USA Water Polo Women’s Senior National Team will play for gold at the FINA World Championships.
Team USA topped Australia 8-6 in the semifinals earlier tonight in Russia behind two goals from Rachel Fatal (Seal Beach, CA/UCLA/SOCAL) and Maggie Steffens (Danville, CA/Stanford/Diablo) along with 10 saves from Ashleigh Johnson (Miami, FL/Princeton/Miami Riptides).
The match will re-air later today at 7pm et/4pm pt on Universal Sports. Team USA now moves on to the gold medal match against the Netherlands on Friday at 10pm local time/3pm et/12pm pt. The match will stream live on UniversalSports.com and air on delay on Universal Sports at 8pm et/5pm pt.
Team USA got off to a quick start on a goal from Kami Craig (Santa Barbara, CA/USC/Santa Barbara) in the opening minute for a 1-0 lead. Australia responded roughly three minutes later on a Keesja Gofers power play strike for a 1-1 match. Not long after, Australia took their first lead of the match on a score from Holly Lincoln-Smith only to see Maddie Musselman (Newport Beach, CA/Corona del Mar HS/CdM Aquatics) even the score moments later at 2-2.
Early in the second Nicola Zagame broke the tie with a score and a 3-2 lead for the Aussies. Team USA answered the call once more with a goal from Steffens and a counter attack strike from Makenzie Fischer (Laguna Beach, CA/Laguna Beach HS/SET) to grab a 4-3 lead with 5:07 to play in the first half. Australia didn’t fade away rattling off two straight goals to go back in front by one at 5-4 with 2:51to play. Fattal came through with a clutch goal beating the buzzer to end the first half and the match was level once more, this time at 5-5 at intermission.
After a high scoring first half the third quarter turned into a defensive showdown with just one goal scored. It came from Steffens early in the period, after an Australia turnover, pushing Team USA ahead 6-5 going to the fourth. The United States took control in the final eight minutes. Fattal scored her second of the day just thirty seconds into the period for a 7-5 lead.
Four minutes later Melissa Seidemann (Walnut Creek, CA/Stanford/NYAC) connected for an 8-5 lead with 2:48 to play. It appeared Australia would stage one last rally after they drew a penalty with 2:23 to play but Johnson blocked the attempt from Zoe Arancini. After Johnson swatted away another attempt on goal Arancini would find the back of the net closing the deficit to two at 8-6. Australia would get no closer as the Team USA defense held the rest of the way en route to the victory.
Team USA went 1/4 on power plays and did not attempt a penalty shot while Australia was 3/7 on power plays and 0/1 on penalty shots.
The United States will look to win their fourth FINA World Championship on Friday. They have previously won gold in 2003 (Barcelona), 2007 (Melbourne), and 2009 (Rome). The last time Team USA medaled at the FINA World Championship outside of winning gold was in 2005 in Montreal when they earned silver.
Scoring – Scoresheet
USA 8 (2, 3, 1, 2) M. Steffens 2, R. Fattal 2, M. Seidemann 1, M. Fischer 1, K. Craig 1, M. Musselman 1
AUS 6 (2, 3, 0, 1) H. Lincoln-Smith 1, K. Gofers 1, Z. Arancini 1, A. Southern 1, N. Zagame 1, G. McGhie 1
Saves – USA – A. Johnson 10 – AUS – L. Yanitsas 3
6×5 – USA – 1/4 – AUS – 3/7
Penalties- USA – 0/0 – AUS 0/1
Adam Krikorian (USA) — Head Coach
On what led to the win: “Our defence in the second half. We made some adjustments at halftime as we were out of sorts in the first half. All credit to Australia for this. For us to hold them to one goal in the second half is fantastic.” On the pressure of being a favourite for the title: “Pressure is a privilege, you must be doing something right. You have to put yourself in a position to be successful. We lost to Italy and I think they are playing the best in the tournament. We know it will be extremely hard (final) and Holland is just getting better. It will be a tough final.”
Rachel Fattal (USA) — Two Goals
I think we played very good in defence We talked about it before the game and being able to use our counter and set up our offence.” On knowing Australia so well: “It’s good to know who we play, their tendencies and such. It’s good and bad. We don’t want to become too comfortable. I love playing them because they always give us a good game.”