Steffens scores seven in U.S. win
Incoming freshman at Stanford leading scorer against Hungary
LONDON -- Maggie Steffens made sure her first touch of the ball at the Olympics counted. And nearly every other one after that, too.
In her Olympic debut, this 19-year-old Californian -- an incoming freshman at Stanford -- scored seven goals -- six in the first half alone -- and the U.S. women's water polo team survived a pesky Hungarian squad to win its opening match Monday at the London Games 14-13.
"It's awesome. My heartbeat is still pounding. I'm walking through here and just kind of taking a deep breath and letting it sink in," Steffens said. "There is so much energy running through me, I don't really remember what happened in the first few minutes."
Catching the ball on the deep on the left side with less than a minute gone in the first quarter, Steffens lobbed the ball over Hungary goalkeeper Flora Bolonyai to score her first goal of the night. She followed it up with a clinic of outside shooting, firing shots -- one after another -- past Hungary defenders and slotting them just inside the post.
The win puts the U.S. even with Spain, winners earlier Monday over China, atop Group A.
The U.S. has finished on the podium at every Olympics since the women's game debuted in 2000, taking home a bronze in 2004 and silver in 2000 and 2008. With seven players back from the Beijing squad, the Americans are the gold medal favorite in London along with rival Australia.
But if Monday's performance is any indication, the lack of experience on the sport's grandest stage among the team's younger players doesn't appear to be much of a problem.
Steffens' seven goals caused jaws to drop at the packed water polo arena at London's Olympic Park.
"She's a stud, I mean come on, seven goals?" said U.S. captain Brenda Villa, who is in her fourth Olympics and is a prolific scorer. "She's a youngster, but you could never tell in the water. She plays like she's been playing at this level for a long time."
Those who have known Steffens the longest -- such as Olympic teammate, roommate and older sister Jessica Steffens -- weren't taken off guard.
"Surprised? No," Jessica said. "She has so much potential in her and I think she's been waiting to bust out of her skin. Was I happy? Yes. Was I surprised that they didn't want to stop her? Yes. But if she's going to keep scoring goals, we're absolutely going to let her."
The younger Steffens, who was in Beijing to watch Jessica and the rest of the U.S. team earn silver four years ago, graduated from high school in California in 2011, and postponed going to Stanford by a year in order to train for the Olympics.
"This is more important," she said with a laugh. "Stanford can wait for the possibility of a medal."