Neushul helps Team USA add more gold to its collection


Stanford grad Kiley Neushul, named the MVP of the championship game, scored four goals in helping the USA women’s national water polo team beat Spain, 13-6, in Budapest on Friday to earn its second straight FINA World Championship.

Cardinal grad Maggie Steffens added a pair of goals as the Americans (26-1, 6-0) claimed back-to-back world titles and won their fifth overall.

"We get fired up to see her play so well," U.S. coach Adam Krikorian said of Neushul. "She's an incredible kid who works so hard and is so passionate. I've never seen anything like it."

UCLA's Maddie Musselman, who added three goals, was named tournament MVP and fellow Bruin Rachel Fattal was added to the all-tournament team.

Stanford grad Gabby Stone recorded eight saves in the goal as Team USA retains their No. 1 ranking in the world and remains in possession of all the major titles in the water polo world, including the Olympic Games, FINA World Championship, FINA World Cup and FINA World League.

"I couldn't be more proud of her," Krikorian said of Stone. "Coming into this year everybody wondered who could replace Sami Hill and Ashleigh Johnson. That's not easy to do. She was probably the MVP of the game, at least the first half to keep us close."

Stone, as well as Alys Williams, practiced with the national team in the build up to the 2016 Rio Olympics but neither made the Olympic team.

"People like Gabby and Alys, who were with us through the whole process and didn't get the chance to play in the Olympics, showed a lot of courage just by coming back. There were no guarantees and then they come back and play so well."

Spain was within 5-4 early in the third quarter before the Americans scored eight of the next nine goals to put the game away.

"I thought it would be a lot tighter at the end than a 7-goal difference," Krikorian said. "It was more difficult than what most people may think though. It certainly felt tighter because Spain really battled."

Stanford grad Melissa Seidemann scored the first goal of the game midway through the first period but Spain responded with a goal before Cardinal senior Jordan Raney gave the U.S. a 2-1 lead after the first quarter.

Spain scored two of the first three goals in the second, sandwiched around a Neushul goal, to leave the game tied at 3-3 with 5:54 left in the first half.

Team USA ran off two straight goals to go ahead 5-3 at halftime on goals from Neushul and Musselman.

In the third quarter Spain scored a goal 30 seconds in to close within 5-4 but never got closer.

Fattal, Neushul, Steffens and Stanford sophomore Makenzie Fischer scored to make it 9-4. After Spain broke the run with a goal, Musselman sparked another four-goal American streak.

Team USA turned in a dominant performance on the advantage, converting 10 of its 12 opportunities. Spain was 3"of-6 on power plays.

"I don't think that's ever happened," Krikorian said. "A lot of the scoring seemed to be quick. That shows the team's confidence and aggressiveness.

— Palo Alto Online Sports/USA water polo

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