Maddie Musselman, who was raised in Newport Beach, scored three goals and three other players from Orange County each scored twice as the United States defeated Spain, 14-5, Saturday to win an unprecedented third consecutive Olympic gold medal in women’s water polo.
Musselman was selected as the tournament’s MVP after sharing the team scoring lead with Maggie Steffens with 18 goals, including a game-high five in the 15-11 semifinal victory over the Russian Olympic Committee on Thursday.
The U.S. built a 6-1 lead five minutes, 48 seconds before halftime on goals by six players. Spain scored three of the next four goals to cut the deficit to 7-4 at halftime. The U.S. scored the next seven goals, including two by Aria Fisher, who was raised in Laguna Beach and has two seasons of eligibility at Stanford remaining.
The nine-goal margin was the largest in the six Olympic women’s water polo finals.
“We’re having fun out there and I think you could see that today,” said Musselman, a Corona del Mar High School alumna who has one season of eligibility remaining at UCLA. “Everyone brought their best when their best was needed and it showed in all four quarters.”
Defender Alys Williams opened the scoring 27 seconds into the game and scored the first of the U.S.’ five goals in the third quarter. The product of Edison High School in Huntington Beach and UCLA is the first player in program history to be the last cut from a previous Olympic roster and then make the next Games’ team.
Kaleigh Gilchrist, who was raised in Newport Beach, scored in the second and third quarters. The Newport Harbor High and USC alumna has completely recovered from a serious leg injury suffered during a fall after the 2019 FINA World Championships in South Korea.
Makenzie Fisher, the older sister of Aria Fisher, and Rachel Fattal, who was raised in Seal Beach and is a UCLA alumna, each scored once Saturday, helping the U.S. (6-1) increase its goals to 109 for the tournament, a record.
The gold medal was the third for Steffens, a defender from Danville who scored in the first period, and Melissa Seidemann, a center from Walnut Creek who scored the final U.S. goal. Fattal, Musselman, the Fisher sisters and Gilchrist were among the six two-time gold medalists.
Stephania Haralabidis, who scored on a third-period penalty shot, and backup goalkeeper Amanda Longan are also from USC.