Gouda, Netherlands – March 26 – The USA Water Polo Women’s National Team punched their ticket to the 2016 Olympic Games with a 19-0 shutout France earlier today at the Olympic Qualification Tournament. The victory assured Team USA of a top four finish at the qualification event and secured them the opportunity to defend their Olympic gold medal this Summer in Rio. Makenzie Fischer (Laguna Beach, CA/Laguna Beach HS/SET) led an offensive overload with six goals while Ashleigh Johnson (Miami, FL/Princeton/NYAC) and Sami Hill (Santa Barbara, CA/UCLA/Santa Barbara) recorded eight saves in net in the win. Today’s match will re-air on NBC Sports Network at 4:30pm et/1:30pm pt. Team USA now advances in this tournament to the semi-final round where they will take on the winner of Spain and the Netherlands on Sunday at 4pm local time. That match will be webcast live and can be accessed by clicking here. For complete tournament results, click here.
In their first meeting against France in Head Coach Adam Krikorian’s tenure, dating back to 2009, Team USA left little doubts of their Olympic-minded intentions. Makenzie Fischer scored the first of her six goals just 22 seconds into the match and Kiley Neushul (Goleta, CA/Stanford/Santa Barbara) followed with a score for a quick 2-0 lead. Fischer added two more goals after that and Maggie Steffens (Danville, CA/Stanford/NYAC) finished off the period with a power play goal for a 5-0 USA lead.
The second period was where Team USA put the match away as six different scorers accounted for seven goals. Maddie Musselman (Newport Beach, CA/Corona del Mar HS/CdM Aquatics) got things started with a score followed by the first of three goals on the day from Aria Fischer (Laguna Beach, CA/Laguna Beach HS/NYAC) for a 7-0 margin. Sister Makenzie came back with another goal followed by a Kaleigh Gilchrist (Newport Beach,CA/USC/NYAC) conversion on a penalty shot for a 9-0 lead. Steffens took a dish from Neushul for a score to go up 10-0 and then Kami Craig (Santa Barbara, CA/USC/NYAC) ripped a back hand to make it 11-0. Makenzie Fischer ended the half the way she started it, by scoring a goal, to put the United States up 12-0 at intermission.
Courtney Mathewson (Anaheim Hills, CA/UCLA/NYAC) joined the scoring party to open the third quarter followed by two straight Steffens goals and Team USA headed to the final eight minutes leading 15-0. While the defense kept France off the board the offense kept rolling adding four more goals in the final period. Melissa Seidemann (Walnut Creek, CA/Stanford/NYAC) scored the first for a 16-0 lead and then the Fischer sisters put the match away. Aria and Makenzie teamed up for the next three goals giving people named Fischer nine goals on the way to a final score of 19-0.
Team USA went 5/6 on power plays and 1/1 on penalty shots while France was 0/6 on power plays and did not attempt a penalty shot.
USA 19 (5, 7, 3, 4) M. Fischer 6, M. Steffens 4, A. Fischer 3, K. Neushul 1, M. Seidemann 1, M. Musselman 1, C. Mathewson 1, K. Gilchrist 1, K. Craig 1
FRA 0 (0, 0, 0, 0)
Saves – USA – A. Johnson 5, S. Hill 3 – FRA – 2
6×5 – USA – 5/6 – FRA – 0/6
Penalties – USA – 1/1 – FRA – 0/0
Adam Krikorian, Head Coach:
On being ready for Gouda: “It starts with our preparation, we have a talented group no doubt about it, but the work that we put in is sometimes undervalued. That work and that preparation gave us the confidence and the ability and the skills to be able to perform in crunch time and that’s what we did this week.”
On balance of team: “It gets me emotional thinking about it because it just shows that this team is more about the team than themselves. It just makes you feel so good as a coach and as a staff, they are just so unselfish they want to do it for each other more than themselves. It says so much just about their character and who they are as a people, more than just water polo players. That’s why coaching them has been a blast, I’m thankful we won mostly because now I get an opportunity to coach them again for another four months, so I look forward to the next four months.”
Maggie Steffens, Captain:
On qualifying: “I’m so excited, I am so eager to achieve this dream with all these girls, the best part of this day has been looking at my teammates’ eyes in the pool giving a hug and just saying ‘your gonna be an Olympian,’ that is the dream for all of us and we did it together, so I’m really happy.”
On the end of the game: “Honestly there was no real feeling, it was just where are my teammates, where is the first hug, where is the first person I can share this smile with and immediately I felt that warmth of our team and I’m just so so proud of these girls.”
Ashleigh Johnson, Goalkeeper:
On qualifying: “It feels great, we’ve worked so hard for this, we’ve been practicing for I don’t know how long, it feels like 20 years and we are finally getting to go to the Olympics.”
On the final moments: “I was clenching my fists for the last two minutes of that game, I was like ‘I think we’re goanna go, I think we’re gonna go, were going!'”
On playing well in Gouda: “We just played game to game, we knew we had to play strong the whole time and we were prepared to play hard.”
Swimming news courtesy of USA Water Polo. Photo courtesy USA Water Polo/Beeldboot