Cal alum Heather Petri has been on every women’s water polo team that the United States has ever sent to the Olympics. The veteran has three medals — two silver (2000, 2008) and a bronze (2004). Back in her fourth Olympics and leading a promising Team USA, she has her sights set on her first gold medal.
That chance nearly slipped out of Petri’s fingertips when her coach made a blunder in Tuesday’s semifinal against Australia, but the U.S. advanced to its second straight Olympic gold medal game in an 11-9 overtime victory.
The U.S. led 9-8 in the final seconds, with the Australian players desperately trying to sustain their gold medal hopes. With an Australian melee crowding the U.S. goal, American coach Adam Kirkorian called a timeout the second he saw his goalkeeper gain possession of the ball, hoping to give his defense some relief from the relentless pressure.
But instead of providing relief, Kirkorian inadvertently placed his squad’s dreams of gold in jeopardy.
In actuality, his goalkeeper did not have possession of the ball, and calling a timeout when not in possession carries the cost of a penalty shot. Australia’s Southern Ash converted the penalty to tie the game at 9-9 with only one second left on the clock to send the game into overtime.
Maggie Steffens and teammate Kami Craig made up for their coach’s blunder with two overtime goals to send the squad to the gold medal match on Thursday against Spain.
The thrilling match was reminiscent of the previous day’s soccer game, in which Cal grad Alex Morgan scored a last-second shot in overtime to send the U.S. women’s soccer team to its gold medal match as well.
Petri and her fellow Bear Elsie Windes have likely forgiven their coach for his gaffe as they advance to the final of the Olympic tournament. Petri will get her fourth medal, and Thursday’s matchup with Spain will decide whether it is finally gold — or yet another silver.
Cal is now assured of at least 16 Olympic medals — more than any other year except 2008, when Calympians won 17. Cal could produce up to 19 medals this year.