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U.S. women’s water polo team wins world championship, extends unrivaled streak

Maddie Musselman

BUDAPEST, HUNGARY - JULY 02: Madeline Musselman #2 of Team United States controls the ball against Dora Leimeter #9 of Team Hungary during the Women’s Water Polo Gold medal match between the United States and Hungary on day 13 of the Budapest 2022 FINA World Championships at Alfred Hajos National Aquatics Complex on July 02, 2022 in Budapest, Hungary. (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)

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The U.S. women’s water polo team won its record-extending fourth consecutive world championship, completing yet another undefeated run through a major tournament.

The Americans, winners of the last three Olympic titles, beat host Hungary 9-7 in Saturday’s final in Budapest, nearly squandering an 8-4 lead in the fourth quarter.

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

Since the start of 2016, the U.S. has lost just one game among the Olympics, World Championship, World Cup and World Super League Final. That came in group play in Tokyo.

The U.S. won a believed-to-be record 69 consecutive games from April 2018 to January 2020 and went into the Tokyo Games on a 172-5 run over the previous five and a half years.

The string of six consecutive global championships -- Olympics or worlds -- is the longest ever for men or women. The span of global titles -- now seven years -- matches the Yugoslavian men, who won two Olympic titles and two world titles from 1984-91.

Seven of the 13 Tokyo Olympians returned for these worlds, led by Tokyo Olympic MVP Maddie Musselman, who scored five goals in Saturday’s final, goalie Ashleigh Johnson, who blocked 10 Hungary shots, and captain Maggie Steffens, who scored once Saturday.

Rising Stanford junior Ryann Neushul, whose older sisters Kiley and Jamie were on Olympic gold-medal teams, made her world championship debut in Budapest and scored three goals Saturday.

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