London Olympics: Maggie Steffens helps U.S. beat Hungary, 14-13, in women’s water polo at London Games


LONDON — Maggie Steffens was scoring so many goals in her Olympic water polo debut even she couldn’t keep count.

“In the game you’re thinking, ‘What’s the next play? What’s my next move?’ You’re not necessarily thinking what happened last,” said Steffens, Team USA’s youngest player at 19 and a soon-to-be freshman at Stanford.

“At one point I was like, ‘Oh, I’m getting open a lot,’ but at the same time you’ve got to just play in the moment and put the ball in the net.”

She put it in seven times, tying the women’s single-game Olympic record, as the U.S. began preliminary-round play on Monday with a physical 14-13 victory over Hungary at the Water Polo Arena.

Steffens, who equaled the seven goals scored by Danielle De Bruijn of the Netherlands against the U.S. in the 2008 gold-medal game, scored the first three U.S. goals and had six by halftime. Her seventh goal against goalkeeper Flora Bolonyai — a two-time All-American at USC — gave the U.S. a 10-8 lead with 4 minutes 48 seconds left in the third quarter.

But Hungary, which had lost four consecutive pre-Olympic tuneup games to the U.S., hung tough and the biggest lead the U.S. could build was 12-9, on a power-play goal by Courtney Mathewson with 7:08 left in the fourth quarter. Mathewson, of Anaheim Hills, scored the final three U.S. goals for a total of four — and that proved barely enough.

“We made some bad mistakes today defensively that we typically don’t make and I really attribute that to just the first game, anxiousness,” U.S. Coach Adam Krikorian said.

Steffens was remarkably poised from the start. She had been well prepared for this moment by her older sister and teammate, Jessica, and both were loudly supported Monday by their parents, Carlos and Peggy, sister Teresa and brother Charlie.

“The adrenaline that was going through me was ridiculous,” Maggie Steffens said. “It was just really fun to go out there finally play. We’ve been waiting for a week sitting here in London. It was good to get the jitters out.”

And get into the Olympic record book.

“Maggie has been in the pool or played some sort of sport since she was born. And she’s always been a stud,” said Jessica Steffens, 25. “We knew she was destined for greatness, especially with three older siblings who all competed in all sorts of sports. She was always at our games or trying to play with us or fight with us, whatever. So it’s really fun to be able to be with her right now as she and I go on this journey together.”

In other games Monday, Spain beat China, 11-6, in the U.S. team’s group. In the other group, Russia beat Britain, 7-6, and Australia beat Italy, 10-8.