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
Adam KRIKORIAN (USA) – head coach On how does it feel talking to the press in wet clothes after winning an Olympic final (he was thrown into the water after the conclusion of the match): “It’s never getting old. This feeling is incredible. I’m speechless.” On when did he feel they had won the final: “About 30 seconds to go. I was so focused today, I was still pissed with myself about what I did two days ago (calling an illegal time-out in the semis, awarding a penalty for Australia and a chance for the extra-time). So I just told myself to stand there all the way to the very end. And I was even upset how we handled the last two minutes.” On what made the final a bit one-sided: “I really liked how we played five-men defence. We got some momentum there defensively, and once we got that it’s tough to get the ball past us. We played with a lot of heart, that was it.”
Brenda VILLA (USA) – gold On winning the gold medal in what will probably be her final Olympics: “I am speechless, it still hasn’t sunk in. We played great defence today and that is what won us the medal. There are no words to explain how I’m feeling, but to go through the last four years with the players who were in Beijing and the new players here, like Maggie
(STEFFENS), it means the world to me, I can’t describe it. It’s the end of a journey and I got my fairytale ending.” On Maggie STEFFENS’ performance in the tournament: “She’s a phenomenal player, but I think the anchor of our team is (our goalkeeper) Betsey (ARMSTRONG) – no one wants to shoot against her. As for Maggie, she’s a great talent and I am looking forward to watching her for the next 10 years.” Heather
PETRI (USA) – gold On being a four-time Olympian with a full set of medals: “It’s awesome, I can’t believe it – I’m so proud of the team.” On scoring a rare goal (for her) in the final at London 2012: “(Crying and laughing) I’m so happy, it doesn’t matter who scores. I was there and it was great to put the ball in the net.” Courtney MATHEWSON (USA) – gold On how she feels winning the gold: “Incredible. I can’t even describe in words. It’s been our focus for so long, I’m actually speechless.” On what veterans Heather PETRI and Brenda VILLA said to the team before the match: “Do what you do. We train day after day. I know it’s the Olympics, but you have to treat it like just another game.”