The United States women’s water polo team clinched its fourth straight world championship title, downing hosts Hungary 9-7 in Sunday’s final in Budapest.

Since 2016, the United States has dropped just one game across the Olympics, World Championship, World Cup and World Super League Final competitions.

Seven of the 13 athletes from the Tokyo gold medal-winning team returned for worlds, with MVP Maddie Musselman notching five goals in the team’s title game. Captain Maggie Steffens logged one goal, while Ryann Neushul scored three times in her world championship debut.

In goal, Ashleigh Johnson quieted Hungary, blocking ten shots throughout the final.

“The difference was our defense,” U.S. head coach Adam Krikorian said. “I don’t think we were very pretty offensively.”

The U.S. women’s water polo team won all three of its group games at the FINA World Championships, starting off their title defense in strong fashion. The knockout stage of the tournament opens Sunday in Hungary.

The closest match for Team USA came against the Netherlands on Wednesday, an 11-7 win. They won Friday’s match against Argentina 23-3. With six world titles in water polo, the team hasn’t lost a world championship game since 2015 and hasn’t lost a playoff game since 2013.

The team is aiming for a fourth straight world title.

With the U.S. winning Group B, they’ve also earned a bye into the quarterfinals. Their match will take place at 10 a.m. ET Tuesday in Budapest. Their opponent will be determined Sunday during the crossover round.

Italy won two matches and tied against Canada to win Group A. The Italians beat Colombia on Friday 31-5. Australia went undefeated in Group C, beating opponents by a goal differential of 34, while Greece won Group D with two wins and a tie.

Play-in schedule:

  • New Zealand vs. France: Winner advances to face Italy
  • Kazakhstan vs. Spain: Winner advances to face United States
  • Hungary vs. Argentina: Winner advances to face Australia
  • Canada vs. Netherlands: Winner advances to face Greece

Stanford water polo won its eighth NCAA championship Sunday with a 10-7 win over defending national champion USC.

USC got on the board first, with Mieria Guiral scoring just 41 seconds into the game. The Trojans would take a 3-1 lead heading into the second quarter before Stanford came back to take a 5-4 lead.

The Cardinals’ Mackenzie Fischer scored four times while Ryann Neushul added three more to secure the win.

Fischer was named the MVP for the NCAA tournament.

“In the first half things weren’t going the way we wanted, we weren’t playing the way we wanted,” Fischer said. “USC was outdoing us in the first half so in the half break we decided that that’s not the energy we wanted to put forward and I think you saw a whole new team in the second half.”

It was Stanford’s third time beating USC this season, and the Cardinal finished with a 25-2 record overall. But their only two losses of the season came at the hands of the Trojans.

“They are just really gritty,” Stanford coach John Tanner told ESPN. “They are such good independent decision makers. It was really chaotic in there and they had to solve a lot of problems on their own. That was really gratifying.

“The whole group, a lot of resolve throughout this. It was a gritty, gritty performance.”

The two teams have played each other seven times in the NCAA championship game. The Cardinal have won three of those games, while USC won the other four.

Growing up in Miami, FL, Ashleigh Johnson was always in the pool, but water polo competition was hard to come by.

Now, a two-time Olympic Gold Medalist, Johnson looks back on what it was like playing a less popular sport in her home state of Florida.

“If you look at the landscape of water polo across the U.S., it’s pretty much in every state, there’s like two or three places where water polo is alive and rampant,” Johnson tells Kelley O’Hara on the Just Women’s Sports podcast. “Those three places compete against each other over and over until everyone goes to California and compete in Junior Olympics.”

In Florida, Johnson says there were three major teams that played each other all the time, adding that water polo was “not very developed” or “very well known.”

“Water polo is like ten times bigger in California, everyone knows what it is, especially in Southern California.”

The sport is beginning to grow, but water polo hasn’t always showcased athletes that represent the diversity of the American population.

“The narrative is changing now, but being a part of this team, I’m the first African American woman to compete on the Olympic stage in water polo for the U.S.,” says Johnson. “That’s a huge thing that I carry with me, but it’s also representative of how much more water polo has to grow across the state. It’s not just race-based, even though that’s a big part of aquatics in general. It’s just water polo across the board needs more popularity.”

There is no professional water polo league in the United States, with most athletes, including Johnson playing abroad for international clubs.

“Personally, I’ve been wanting to find a pathway to explore a league within the U.S., and I know that there is so much talent at the college level, but people just kind of pack up their suit and pack up the ball.”

Johnson says more professional opportunities in the United States could open the door for broader growth and mentorship in the sport.

“If there were a league in the U.S., I would be the first to join it,” says Johnson.

Listen to Johnson’s full conversation with O’Hara on water polo, her Olympic journey and her historic career here.

The Hungarian Olympic medal drought in water polo is finally over.

Hungary secured its first-ever medal in women’s water polo with a 11-9 victory over longtime rivals, the Russian Olympic Committee, in the bronze-medal game on Saturday.

In the final minutes, Anna Illes scored to give Hungary a single-goal advantage and goalkeeper Alda Magyari scored on an empty net from long range with just four seconds left to seal the win.

Magyari finished with 10 saves and Vanda Valyi led Hungary with three goals.

As a result, Hungary, which had finished fourth in three consecutive Olympics before Tokyo, is going home with the bronze medal.

The United States water polo team dismantled Spain 14-5 to win their third consecutive gold medal, while captain Maggie Steffens added to her record as the all-time Olympic leading scorer.

Steffens, now a three-time gold medalist, scored three goals in the final game on Saturday, extending her record to 56.

The California native first secured the all-time scoring title on Friday, passing Italy’s Tania Di Mario in Team USA’s dominant win over the ROC.

Steffens was previously the top scorer at the London and Rio Olympics.

Be sure to check out her appearance on the Just Women’s Sports podcast.

The U.S. water polo team won their third consecutive gold medal on Saturday, downing Spain 14-5 in the Olympic final.

Goalkeeper Ashleigh Johnson led the defensive charge for the United States, batting away 11 saves to hold Spain to just five points.

Maddie Musselman notched three goals for Team USA, while Aria Fischer, Kaleigh Gilchrist and Alys Williams each scored twice against Spain.

The United States’ dominant performance produced the largest margin of victory ever in an Olympic gold medal match.

Team USA is now the only county to medal in every Olympic tournament since water polo’s debut at the 2000 Sydney Games.

The United States water polo team defeated the Russian Olympic Committee 15-11 in the semifinals on Thursday to advance to its fourth consecutive gold-medal game.

Madeline Musselman led the team in scoring with five goals. Captain Maggie Steffens also netted three in the win, adding to her tally a week after becoming the all-time leading scorer in Olympic water polo.

The United States’ quest for a third-straight gold medal will conclude with Saturday’s Olympic final against Spain.

Two days after USA Water Polo’s loss to Hungary — their first loss in 13 years — captain Maggie Steffens stepped up and made her mark on Olympic history.

Steffens, a two-time gold medalist playing in her third Olympics, scored four goals in the Americans’ dominant 18-5 win over the Russian Olympic Committee on Friday.

With her 48th career goal, she became the sport’s all-time leading scorer in the Olympics, surpassing Italy’s Tania Di Mario. Steffens did it all with a broken nose, which she sustained during Wednesday’s loss.

Steffens and Team USA stand atop the women’s tournament Group B after going 3-1 through the preliminary round. They’ll next play in the quarterfinals on Tuesday, with a chance to compete for their third straight Olympic gold medal in Tokyo.

The U.S. women’s water polo team made Olympics history in their opening matching, routing host Japan 25-4 in the first of their four preliminary round games.

The Saturday victory saw the Americans topple the Olympic record for most goals in a game with 25 and the record for largest halftime total — the U.S. scored 14 in the 1st half.

The 21-point win also overtook Australia’s 16-3 win over Great Britain in 2012 as the biggest margin of victory in Olympics history.

Nine total players scored for the U.S. as the team begins the chase for a gold medal. The team is primed to make history again as the first three-peat Olympic champions.

Notable performances came from Maggie Steffens and Stephanie Haralabidis who scored five goals each, while at the other end, goalkeeper Ashleigh Johnson stopped 15 of 19 shots.

Team USA returns on Monday to play China.