In their first trip to the Olympic Games, sisters Makenzie and Aria Fischer will play for gold.
The Laguna Beach athletes and the USA women's water polo team gained a spot in the gold-medal match of the Rio Games by defeating Hungary Wednesday, 14-10 in the semifinal round. The victory sent the U.S. on to the final Friday against Italy. The teams will meet at 11:30 a.m. at the Olympic Aquatics Stadium.
Coach Adam Krikorian and Team USA won the Olympic gold medal at the 2012 London Games.
Makenzie Fischer scored the first goal of Wednesday's match in the opening minute. Hungary scored the next two goals for a 2-1 lead that marked the first time that Team USA had trailed in the tournament. The U.S. would go on to lead 3-2 after one quarter, went up 8-5 at halftime and held a 12-8 advantage heading to the fourth quarter.
Makenzie Fischer also had an assist. Maggie Steffens (Danville, Calif.; Newport Beach) led Team USA in scoring with four goals. Maddie Musselman (Corona del Mar High) and Kiley Nueshul (Goleta) both scored twice.
The U.S. previously defeated Hungary, 11-6, in the final match of group play Saturday.
"[Wednesday's game was so much fun with my teammates, and now we can't wait for the gold-medal game," Makenzie said. "We have been preparing and looking forward to this moment for a long time. One last game together to leave everything out there!"
Team USA had advanced to the semifinals by coming up with a stifling defensive effort in a quarterfinal match against Brazil and cruised to a 13-3 victory over the host team. Makenzie Fischer scored twice, both goals coming in the third quarter which ended with the U.S. holding a comfortable, 13-0 lead.
She and Steffens, Neushul and Kaleigh Gilchrist (Newport Beach) each scored two goals.
"It was an amazing atmosphere, getting to play Brazil in Brazil," Makenzie said. "Tons of energy coming from the crowd even though the majority of them were cheering against us.
"I think we did a great job locking it down on defense which is something we always focus on."
After knocking off Hungary for the second time, Team USA now can focus on its final match of the tournament.
"Once again, the game had a great atmophere to it," Aria said of Wednesday's semifinal matchup with Hungary. "I felt like we drew energy from each other, and that we can use that energy to continue into finals.
"I am excited to go for gold in my first Olympics, and can't wait to leave it all in the pool on Friday."
Team USA is 5-0 in the tournament heading into the gold-medal match. On Friday, the U.S. will take on an Italy team that defeated Russia, 12-9, in Wednesday's other semifinal match.
Italy also is 5-0 heading into Friday's showdown.
Hungary and Russia will square off in the bronze-medal match Friday.