Maddie Musselman of Newport Beach scored four of her five goals in the second half as the United States women’s water polo team overcame three three-goal deficits to defeat the Russian Olympic Committee, 15-11, Thursday to reach the gold-medal game.
Aria Fischer, another of the six players from Orange County on the 13-player team, gave the U.S. the lead for good by scoring with five minutes, five seconds to play, breaking an 11-11 tie.
Defender Alys Williams of Huntington Beach increased the U.S. lead to 13-11 by putting her only shot past Russian goalkeeper Evgeniia Golovina with 3:37 left. Musselman scored the final two goals, with 2:45 and 1:50 left, the second on the power play.
The U.S. was outscored 3-2 in the first period and trailed 5-2, 6-3 and 7-4 in the second quarter. Musselman scored her first goal on her fourth shot with 39 seconds before halftime. Melissa Seidemann scored for the U.S. on a long shot with one second left in the first half, cutting the deficit to 7-6.
Musselman’s goal with 5:19 left in the third period gave the U.S. its first lead, 9-8. Musselman scored a power-play goal with 1:01 left in the third period, putting the U.S. ahead 11-9.
The Russian Olympic Committee re-tied the score 11-11 on power-play goals by Elvina Karimova with 6:29 left in the fourth period and Maria Bersneva 59 seconds later.
Makenzie Fischer, the older sister of Aria Fisher, scored twice and Rachel Fattal of Seal Beach once as the U.S. won for the fifth time in six games in the Tokyo Olympics.
Musselman is a Corona del Mar High School alumna who has one season of eligibility remaining at UCLA. Her father Jeff pitched for the Toronto Blue Jays from 1986-1989 and New York Mets from 1989-1990.
The Fishers are both Laguna Beach residents and Laguna Beach High School alumni who play for Stanford.
All Russian athletes at the Tokyo Games are competing for the Russian Olympic Committee. A ruling last year by the Court of Arbitration for Sport banned Russia’s flag, anthem and team name as punishment for an extensive doping program and cover-ups.
The United States is seeking to become the first team to win three consecutive gold medals in women’s water polo, which has been an Olympic sport since 2000. The U.S. will face Spain, an 8-6 winner over Hungary in the other semifinal, in Saturday’s gold-medal game, set to begin at 12:30 a.m. Pacific Daylight Time.
The game will be streamed at stream.nbcolympics.com/water-polo-womens-gold-medal-game.
Spain’s roster includes Anni Espar, who scored the game-winning goal for USC in third sudden-death period in the 2013 NCAA championship game. U.S. attacker Kaleigh Gilchrist was also a member of USC’s 2013 NCAA championship team.
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