The United States will face Spain early Saturday California time, seeking to become the first team to win three consecutive Olympic gold medals in women’s water polo, with a 13-player team including six players from Orange County.
The U.S. is 5-1 in the Tokyo Olympics, including a 15-11 semifinal victory over the Russian Olympic Committee Thursday. Spain (6-0) advanced to the final with an 8-6 victory over Hungary, which defeated the U.S., 10-9 in a preliminary round game July 28.
Spain’s roster includes Anni Espar, who scored the game-winning goal for USC in the 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.
Espar is among six players on Spain’s team who were also part of its team from the 2012 Games that lost to the United States, 8-5, in the gold medal game. The U.S. returns two players — attacker Maggie Steffens and defender Melissa Seidemann.
The U.S. defeated Spain, 18-9, July 16 in a group play game of the FINA World League Super League Final in Athens with Rachel Fattal of Seal Beach scoring five goals.
The game is set to begin at 12:30 a.m. Pacific Daylight Time and will be streamed live at stream.nbcolympics.com/water-polo-womens-gold-medal-game.
Fattal is among the five players from Orange County who were members of the 2016 gold medal-winning team, along with Gilchrist, attacker Maddie Musselman and sisters Aria and Makenzie Fischer.
Defender Alys Williams of Huntington Beach is among the five first-time Olympians on the team. The Edison High School and UCLA alumnus is the first woman in program history to be the last cut for a previous Olympic roster and then make the next Games team.
Women’s water polo has been an Olympic sport since 2000.
Fattal is a Seal Beach resident and Los Alamitos High School alumnus. She has played professionally in Australia since her graduation from UCLA.
Gilchrist is Newport Beach resident, Newport Harbor High and USC alumnus. She has completely recovered from a serious leg injury suffered during a fall after the 2019 FINA World Championships in South Korea.
Musselman is a Newport Beach resident and Corona del Mar High School alumnus 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.
Makenzie Fischer is a defender who has one season of college eligibility remaining. She was second the team with 21 goals in the 2019 Pan American Games.
Aria Fischer is a center with two seasons of college eligibility remaining. At the age of 17, she became the youngest female team sport athlete in U.S. Olympic history to win a gold at a Summer Olympic Games.
Their father Erich was a member of the 1992 U.S. Olympic men’s water polo team that finished fourth.