In the final game of her career, four-time Olympian and Long Beach resident Brenda Villa goes out a champion as the U.S. women’s water polo team captured gold for the first time in its history Thursday.
Villa scored one goal in the 8-5 win over Spain, capping off a career that already includes two silver medals and one bronze. The U.S. started the game off slow, scoring one goal late in the first quarter off a Maggie Steffens shot, tying the game at one apiece.
Then Steffens, from Seal Beach, erupted with two goals and an assist in the second quarter.
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Long Beach resident Betsey Armstrong made a key save with nine seconds remaining to send the U.S. into halftime with a 5-2 lead.
Coming out of the break, the U.S. did not relent.
Just over a minute into the third, Steffens scored once again and Villa followed up with her lone goal.
Up 8-2 in the fourth quarter with a little over five minutes remaining, Spain attempted to mount a comeback, scoring three unanswered goals.
But their efforts came too late and as the clock expired U.S. players and coaches leaped into the pool to celebrate their victory.
On its way to gold the U.S. squad went undefeated. A tie with Spain in the preliminary round was its only blemish.
Steffens, who is just 19, finished with a tournament-best 21 goals.