The United States women’s water polo team won its second consecutive Olympic gold medal Aug. 19 beating Italy 12-5 in the gold medal game. Two of the Americans’ first opponents were Spain and Hungary. These two teams featured three members of the Cal women’s water polo team — namely Roser Tarrago for Spain, and Dora Antal and Anna Illes for Hungary.
The Americans were grouped with both Spain and Hungary, along with China. The U.S. steamrolled through all three, beating them by at least five goals each game, with an 11-6 victory over Hungary being the closest. Both Spain and Hungary defeated China, and Tarrago got the better of her two Cal teammates, scoring two goals as her country edged Hungary, 11-10, to secure the second seed in the group.
Tarrago and Spain faced Russia in the quarterfinals, and the two Hungarians were slated against Australia. In this round, however, the Hungarians came out on top of their Spanish counterpart, advancing to the winners bracket with a 13-11 shootout victory over Australia, while the Spaniards lost a tight one 12-10.
In the victory over Australia, Antal was responsible for scoring her team’s final goal to force penalties at 8-8 and also for slotting home the final penalty to win the shootout 5-3 and lead her team to the semifinal.
From there, Spain didn’t drop another match, rolling through China 11-6 in the semifinals and then taking fifth place with a 12-10 victory over Australia. In her final match, Tarrago put forth one of the best individual games of the tournament, netting an astounding seven of her team’s 12 goals.
Antal and Illes, however, were less successful in their semifinal game, coming up once again against the juggernaut that is the United States. It proved too deep for Antal, Illes and company, with nine Americans scoring while only five put away goals for Hungary.
But the unfortunate results didn’t end there as the Hungarians then proceeded to endure heartbreak in the bronze medal match, losing 7-6 on sudden death in another penalty shootout to Russia. Both Bears scored two goals during the game but to no avail. This was Hungary’s third consecutive fourth-place finish at the Summer Olympics.
And while the Cal players’ teams ended their tournaments in opposing styles, the United States ─ which boasts no Cal players — was surely the most consistent throughout the tournament. Led in scoring by driver Maggie Steffens in all but one game, the Unites States was out-and-out the best team ─ likely because it was the deepest. It won each game by at least four goals and with at least eight scorers contributing in four of six games.
As the Americans dominated their opponents en route to becoming the first women’s team to repeat Olympic gold in women’s water polo, commentators couldn’t help but consider the idea of the development of a dynasty. With their 22nd consecutive victory, the Americans added an Olympic gold to their current World Championship, World Cup and World League Super Final titles. They currently hold every crown in international women’s water polo, so the dynasty talk is certainly not out of place, and it should be exciting to see how long this core of USA water polo can extend its greatness.
Contact Vikram Muller at [email protected].