In what could loosely be termed a rematch of the 2008 Beijing Olympic gold-medal final, the USA women's water polo team posted a 12-11 victory over the Netherlands on Wednesday at the 15th FINA World Championships in Barcelona, Spain.
Stanford's Maggie Steffens, Kiley Neushul and Annika Dries all scored two goals for the Americans to help erase the memory of the Beijing finale, where the Dutch won the gold with a 9-8 win as Danielle De Bruijn was the queen of the pool with seven goals.
"2012 was a great year for us, but now it's 2013 and it's completely different," said Steffens, who was the leading scorer at the London Olympics. "Unfortunately we are not able to fight for medals, but the fifth place now is our goal and we are going to fight hard for it."
A loss to Spain on Monday knocked the Americans off the medal podium. The best the U.S. can finish now is fifth. Team USA will meet Greece for for that spot on Friday morning. This will be a rematch of the opening contest of the tournament, a 12-8 victory for the United States.
Lieke Klaassen netted four goals as the Dutch came back from a 9-7 deficit after three quarters and then from 11-8 and 12-9 deficits to nearly clinch a draw and possible extra time. Klaassen now has 22 goals for the tournament.
From Beijing, Netherlands had four gold medalists -- goalkeeper Ilse van der Meijden, captain Yasmin Smit, Biurakn Hakhverdian and Iefke van Belkum -- and the USA had two silver medalists, goalie Betsey Armstrong, and Kami Craig.
Craig had the match and the goal at her mercy with 48 seconds left on the clock, turning at two meters and bouncing the ball into the net, only for the Dutch to go to a timeout and try to get the tie at the other end. But, it was not to be and Team USA gained some sort of retribution for Beijing.
"I think this games shows some character and I'm proud of the team," said U.S. head coach Adam Krikorian. "We have one more game to finish out this tournament and we can't be satisfied with just today's result. We have to prepare like we did for this game, for Greece. Ultimately our six on five was much better today, that's a big reason why we struggled against Spain, and it's good to have a good day on our man advantage."
The lead changed three times in the first half. Once the U.S. went 5-4 ahead on a goal by Jill Kraus, it kept at least one goal between the two recent Olympic gold-medalist teams.
Also scoring for Team USA was Stanford grad Melissa Seidemann while KK Clark of Menlo Park also saw action along with Stanford grad Lolo Silver.
"It was a tight game and we are satisfied with the victory because the Netherlands are a very good team," said Kraus. "We are still very motivated in this tournament even if we don't play the semifinals. We'll try to finish the competition well."