US women top Spain to win world wa­ter polo ti­tle again

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

They’ve done it again. The US women claimed a record-ex­tend­ing fifth world cham­pi­onship in wa­ter polo with a 13-6 vic­tory over Spain on Fri­day. Ki­ley Neushul scored four goals to help the two-time Olympic cham­pi­ons win back-to-back ti­tles at the worlds. “It prob­a­bly seemed eas­ier than it was. That Span­ish team is tough. Miki (Oca Gaia) does an in­cred­i­ble job with them and we knew that they would fight,” US coach Adam Kriko­rian said of his coun­ter­part.

“We win it with our prepa­ra­tion. We win it with our train­ing, the con­nec­tion and pas­sion that we have for each other. You don’t win gold medals in cham­pi­onships dur­ing those 32 min­utes,” said Kriko­rian, who was pushed into the pool by his ju­bi­lant play­ers as the cel­e­bra­tions got un­der­way.

Cap­tain Mar­garet St­ef­fens spoke of the “Amer­i­can pride of al­ways try­ing to be our best” as she paid trib­ute to the spirit of her team­mates. “For us the spirit is try­ing to be the best team we can be and con­nect, be­cause that’s what makes it fun. The more fun we can have, the more heart you can see in our play, the will, the fight. We love mak­ing his­tory, we love be­ing first,” St­ef­fens said. The pre­tour­na­ment fa­vorites had beaten Rus­sia 14-9 in the semi­fi­nal. The Rus­sians fin­ished with the bronze medal. Spain fought to stay even at 3-3 be­fore quick­fire goals from Neushul and Made­line Mus­sel­man gave the US breath­ing room at half­time.

St­ef­fens added a cou­ple of goals in what turned out to be a com­fort­able win on the back of strong de­fense. US goal­keeper Gabrielle Stone saved seven of 12 shots. Amanda Lon­gan yielded Spain’s other goal. Mus­sel­man had a hat trick, giv­ing her 16 goals for the tour­na­ment. Anna Es­par Lla­quet reached a hat trick for Spain with the game’s fi­nal score. The US had been the first women’s wa­ter polo na­tion to win four worlds, af­ter vic­to­ries in 2003, 2007, 2009 and 2015. But this group is hard to sat­isfy and some are look­ing ahead al­ready. “I’m very ex­cited for the fu­ture of this team, whether the girls stay or leave and new ones come in and more peo­ple come back,” Mus­sel­man said. “It’s a good start off to a new quad, and a new lead up to the Olympics, which is re­ally ex­cit­ing.”

Both sides were backed by en­thu­si­as­tic sup­port­ers on Bu­dapest’s Mar­garet Is­land in the mid­dle of the Danube. Most of the crowd seemed to be from Hun­gary, whose men’s team plays in the fi­nal against Croa­tia.Zach Beck and Re­becca Beck from Seat­tle were trav­el­ing through Europe but ex­tended their stay to cheer on the Amer­i­can women. “We’ve been to the swim­ming, we’ve been to the div­ing,” Zach Beck said. “But, I got to say, women’s wa­ter polo was the best.” — AP

BU­DAPEST: US Made­line Mus­sel­man (L) holds the tro­phy for best player of the cham­pi­onship as she cel­e­brates with team­mate af­ter win­ning the women’s fi­nal wa­ter polo match be­tween USA and Spain dur­ing the FINA2017 world cham­pi­onships, on Fri­day, at the Ha­jos Al­fred swim­ming pool in Bu­dapest. —AFP

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