The USA Women’s Water Polo Team won their fourth world title after defeating The Netherlands in a nervy 5-4 win at the 16th FINA World Championships on Friday. Goalkeeper Ashley Johnson stuffed a final break-away attack with 90 seconds remaining to finally extinguish the very real Dutch hopes of at least tying the score, thus avoiding a potential collapse by the Americans.
The match never overcame its tense and cautious nature. A strike by Yasmin Smit put the Dutch on the board first at the end of the first quarter, a score that failed to suppress the evening’s anxiety. The pace of scoring remained sluggish and the half ended at a 2-2 deadlock.
Rachel Fattal, who had a break-out tournament, put the American up by one early in the third. Courtney Matthewson extended the lead to two and completed US scoring with half a minute left in the third bringing the score to 5-3.
The Americans played conservatively for the remaining quarter probing for opportune scoring chances while clearly attempting to exhaust time from the clock. The Dutch never relented and scored with three minutes remaining to come within one of the defending champs.
In the remaining minutes the the Dutch twice failed to finish clear counter attack opportunities adding yet more to the drama. Johnson stifled the final charge and the game wound down, the Americans equally relieved and euphoric.
Team USA is now the only team in women’s water polo history to hold all major world titles. The squad has lost only once since the summer of 2014 and remains the clear favorite as the 2016 Olympic year approaches.