By Erica Fenyo
The USA Women’s Water Polo Team came back with a decisive victory in their 4th game of the Olympics against the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) on July 30 after falling to Hungary earlier this week.
Team USA came out strong with an early lead, with Stephania Haralbidis scoring two goals and Kaleigh Gilchrist adding another within the first few minutes. The team ultimately beat the ROC in this Group B preliminary game. Stanford alums, who comprise five of the 13 roster spots, contributed seven goals to the 18-5 win.The victory came on the heels of a surprise loss to Hungary — the American women’s first Olympic loss in 13 years.
Days after this upset, the Americans rebounded by beating the ROC 18-5. Stanford alum Maggie Steffens ’17 — sporting a black eye and broken nose after being elbowed in the face in the team’s match against China — and Haralabidis led the way with four goals each, with Paige Hauschild adding another three goals for the Americans. Along with a strong offense, Team USA had over a dozen steals, and goalie Ashleigh Johnson contributed 16 blocks and her second-highest save percentage of the Games thus far.
The game also saw Steffens score her 49th career Olympic goal, breaking retired Italian superstar Tania Di Mario’s previous Olympic record and making Steffens the leading scorer in Olympic women’s water polo history.
Of the 13 players on Team USA, five are current Stanford students and alums. These five athletes made up almost 40 percent of the goals in the USA vs. ROC game and contributed three steals. Along with Steffens’ four goals, Makenzie Fischer (’21) scored two and Jamie Neushul (’17) added one.
The five teammates have been to a combined total of 11 Olympics, with Steffens and Melissa Seidemann (’13) attending their third Olympics, Aria (’22) and Makenzie Fischer at their second, and Neushul being the only Stanford alum at her first Olympics.
Team USA remains in the lead in Pool B, ahead of Hungary in second and the ROC in third, as they fight to win their third consecutive Olympic gold medal. The team will play in the quarterfinals on Aug. 3 against an opponent to be announced.