Team USA Women’s Water Polo Wins World League; Clinches 2020 Olympic Berth


The American women’s water polo team on Sunday defeated Italy to lock up the 2nd qualifying spot for the 2020 Summer Olympic Games (after hosts and auto qualifiers Japan). The gold medal game this week was a rematch of the gold medal game at the 2016 Rio Olympics, where the Americans dominated 12-5.

The win for the Americans gives them a 6th-straight World League title, along with 10 in the last 11 and 12 in the last 14.

In a grueling match, the Americans defeated Italy 10-9 in the championship on Sunday afternoon in Hungary. After World League Super Final MVP Maddie Musselman dominated the scoring for the Americans throughout the tournament, she gave way to teammate Makenzie Fischer of Stanford, who scored 4 goals and was named player of the match.

The Italians opened with a 2-0 lead with a couple of quick scores in the first period before the Americans fought back to tie the match at 2 with goals from Stephania Haralabidis and Rachel Fattal.

Kiley Neushul goal early in the 2nd quarter gave the Americans their first lead of the match, but it was short-lived: Italy scored 2 more to lead 4-3 headed into halftime.

It was then, however, that 22-year old Makenzie Fischer of the legendary Fischer water polo dynasty began to assert her will on the match. She lit the Italians up for 2-straight goals early in the period to snatch the lead back, and after Italy tied the match, Fischer and Musselman scored back-to-back and the Americans led 7-6 at the end of the 3rd quarter.

4th quarter goals by Aria Fischer, younger sister of Makenzie, and a gorgeous lob from Musselman gave the Americans a 10-8 lead with 2 minutes remaining. With 33 seconds left, Italy pulled back to within 1 goal, and with the final shot of the game couldn’t convert to force overtime.

While Italy was efficient on power plays (5/8 versus the Americans’ 5/12), it was a huge penalty shot save by American goalkeeper Ashleigh Johnson that was ultimately the difference-maker for Team USA.

Italy put up a team effort, with 6 different players scoring goals, including a pair each from Chiara TabaniArianna Garibotti, and Izabella Chiappini.

Elsewhere on the final day of the competition:

  • Russia beat the Netherlands 10-7 for the bronze medal, led by a trio of goals from veteran Ekaterina Prokofyeva. The stifling Russian defense was able to keep tournament goals leader Maud Megens relatively contained: she picked up only a pair. The medal is Russia’s third-straight bronze at the tournament; they also took bronze at the 2017 World Championships.
  • Australia, which is a good program but has struggled in international tournaments as of late, bounced back for a win in the 5th-place match with a win over hosts Hungary 12-7.

Award Winners

  • MVP – Maddie Musselman, USA
  • Best Goalkeeper – Laura Aarts, Netherlands
  • Top Scorers – Maud Megens, Netherlands/Rita Keszthelyi, Hungary – 17 goals each

Final Finish Order

  1. United States
  2. Italy
  3. Russia
  4. Netherlands
  5. Australia
  6. Hungary
  7. Canada
  8. China

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IT was a totally brilliant and hard-fought match from the beginning.
When i saw TEAM USA down 0-2 in the opening minutes, I knew these women were going to have to be 110% on the day.
. . .AND TO LOCK UP a birth for Tokyo – Wow!
Only superlatives in my vocabulary: athletes, coaching, CRAZY USA fans!


Izabella Chiappini is an interesting international story. One of the top players in the world. Played at Arizona State and is a Brazilian national. Played for Brazil in Rio then moved to Italy.


Congratulations! A big deal to wrap up the birth early since so few are up for grabs

About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder of He first got his feet wet by building The Swimmers' Circle beginning in January 2010, and now comes to SwimSwam to use that experience and help build a new leader in the sport of swimming. Aside from his life on the InterWet, …

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