It was the women's Olympic water polo final all over again. This time, however, the script changed and Spain won instead of United States.
Four times Team USA came within one goal of Spain, but that was it as Spain posted a 9-6 victory on Monday at the 15th FINA World Championships in Barcelona, Spain. It was a six-goal turnaround from the London Olympics just a year ago.
"We have been together for only two months, progressing every game," said USA's Kelly Rulon. "It was different than in London as we had been playing together for almost three years. It's tough to feel what it means to lose after the gold-medal joy in London."
This time is was all about Spain, five times the bridesmaid and twice finishing equal with U.S. in major competition, but never winning before Monday.
Kami Craig, who scored three goals in a match where the USA center forwards were stifled, scored USA's third and Stanford's Maggie Steffens found the cage on a penalty shot to get the Americans to within 5-4 by halftime.
Stanford grad Melissa Seidemann scored in the third period to make it a 6-5 match before Spain reeled off three unanswered goals.
Steffens, Kiley Neushul and Sacred Heart Prep grad KK Clark each recorded an assist.
Spain driver Anna Espar also played for NCAA champion USC, which beat Stanford in the final.
Spain is now medal-bound while the U.S. will play in the round of 5-8 for the second time in two years.
"Iīm not disappointed about the game," said USA head coach Adam Krikorian. "We played good enough to win, but we couldn't finish; the ball did not get into the net. They made very nice blocks. It was a very hard game, and for the future we need to improve the fitness. We canīt forget that Spain is one of the best teams of the world.
"I am very proud of the team. We have to continue fighting all the time, not thinking about losing. At some stages of the game we were very good. It has been an awesome environment and despite losing this game itīs been great for the sport. Hopefully this shows the greatness of our sport and there will be 12 teams allowed in the next Olympic tournament, as it is not fair that important teams as China and Italy are not here."
In other water polo news:
Stanford's Jeff Schweimer helped the USA men's team win the gold medal at the 19th Maccabiah Games that wrapped up Monday in Israel.
It was the men's third gold medal and first since 2001 in the Games, which are the third-largest sporting event behind the Olympic Games and FIFA World Cup. The USA sent 1,100 athletes to compete.