The U.S. women's water polo team dominated Italy in a 12-5 win in their gold medal match Friday to become the first women's team to win gold at consecutive Summer Olympics.
Nearly half of the team's roster is based here in Los Angeles. Five of the women — KK Clark, Rachel Fattal, Sami Hill, Courtney Mathewson and Maddie Musselman — are UCLA Bruins and two of them — Kami Craig and Kaleigh Gilchrist — are USC Trojans
As head coach for the UCLA women's water polo team, Brandon Brooks either recruited or coached every player on the Olympic team.
He tells KPCC these athletes have spent years pushing themselves to make it to the games in Rio.
"I think a lot of Olympians understand once you get to the Olympics, that's the reward for all the hard work and all the pressure you've put on already. So by the time you get to that last two-week tournament it should really be more of a celebration," Brooks says.
Friday's gold medal match against Italy was a lopsided one. The U.S. scored the most goals any team has ever scored in a women's water polo final — and they did it with the widest margin of victory, according to the Olympic News Service.
The American team scored four goals in two different periods – the first and the third – and while Italy fought their way back to trail 5-3 at the half, the U.S. players broke the game open after the intermission. Italy scored its final goal with just seconds remaining.
With the U.S. featuring strong and unselfish play on the offensive end of the pool, the Italians needed to score goals to keep up.
But many of their shots failed to get past American goalkeeper Ashleigh Johnson – who saved a crucial early penalty and 9 of 13 shots overall.
With their second gold medal in hand, the U.S. women's team has gone from being strong — it's never failed to medal at the Olympics — to bidding for a dynasty. Friday's win was the team's 22nd straight, a streak that goes back to a loss to Italy at the world championships in 2015.