It's official, the U.S. Olympic women's water polo team will get the opportunity to defend its Olympic crown after defeating Hungary, 14-10, Wednesday in the semifinal round of the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.
Stanford senior and captain Maggie Steffens turned in a stellar effort on defense, coupled with a team high four goals to pace the attack. Ashleigh Johnson added eight saves in net. The only nation to medal in every Olympic Games to offer women's water polo, Team USA is assured of earning another medal in 2016 as they advance to meet Italy in the gold medal match on Friday.
The game is currently set for 11:30 a.m. PT on Friday but is subject to change. The match will air on NBC and stream live on NBCOlympics.com and the NBC Sports App.
Just days removed from defeating Hungary, 11-6, in the final match of group play, the United States met a more determined Hungarian squad.
Cardinal incoming freshman Makenzie Fischer opened the scoring for the United States in the opening minute.
Hungary responded with two straight goals, the last from Hanna Kisteleki to go up 2-1 with 3:59 to play in the first.
That gave the United States its first deficit in the Olympic Games, though it was short lived.
Stanford grad Melissa Seidemann followed with a goal on a second-chance opportunity and Steffens scored a power-play goal for a 3-2 USA lead after the first period.
The United States began to build their lead in the second quarter and it started with a Rachel Fattal goal 30 seconds in.
After the two sides traded goals leaving the United States ahead 5-3, Maddie Musselman netted two straight to push the advantage to 7-3 with 4:16 to go in the half.
Hungary looked to keep pace in the high scoring half adding two of the next three goals to trail by three at 8-5 at halftime.
Every time Hungary looked to rally, the United States had an answer.
Rita Keszthelyi started the scoring in the third to make it 8-6, but Steffens followed with a score.
Cardinal grad Kiley Neushul took advantage of a Hungary turnover to score for a 10-6 lead and then Steffens had another for an 11-6 score with 3:55 left in the quarter.
Hungary added two more in the period sandwiched around a Kami Craig goal as the United States held a 12-8 lead going to the fourth.
Neushul kept things moving for Team USA with a goal in the opening two minutes of the fourth for a 13-8 lead.
Hungary drew to within 13-9 with 2:32 to play on a Dora Czigany goal but Steffens shut the door on the very next possession with her fourth goal as the United States went on to win 14-10.
Team USA went 2-of-12 on power plays while Hungary was 2-of-11 with neither side attempting a penalty shot.
On Friday the United States will appear in their fourth Olympic Games final having previously taken part in the match in 2000 (silver), 2008 (silver) and 2012 (gold). They earned a bronze medal at the 2004 Olympic Games.
A victory on Friday would continue Team USA's hold of all the major titles in women's water polo as they are the current Olympic, World Championship, World Cup, and World League Super Final champions.