LONDON >> Maggie Steffens scored three goals Friday as the United States women’s water polo team held off a fourth-quarter rally by China to win 7-6 and enter the quarterfinals as the second seed from Group A.
Anni Espar Llaquet scored with two seconds left to give Spain a 13-11 victory over Hungary and clinch the top seed out of Group A in the quarterfinals of women’s Olympic water polo.
Australia beat Russia 11-8 to secure the No. 1 spot in Group B behind four goals from Nicola Zagame.
Spain, which is making its Olympic debut, had to win by at least two goals to ensure itself the top spot in the group ahead of the United States.
The Spanish almost let the top seed slip away in the last minute after Dora Czigany scored for Hungary at the near post with 49 seconds to play to pull within 12-11. Furious with herself, Spain goalkeeper Laura Ester Ramos repeatedly slapped the post with her hand before retrieving the ball from the net.
But Spain got a final chance to push the margin to two goals after a Hungary turnover with 12 seconds left, and Espar Llaquet took advantage by slotting the final goal past goalkeeper Edina Gangl.
“It’s the first time we have come to the Olympics, and we have come here not just to play but to win,” Espar Llaquet said. “We train a lot so I think that we deserve to be there, fighting with teams like Australia or U.S.A.”
In the quarterfinals, the U.S., which has Hawaii-born Tumua Anae as its backup goalkeeper, will play Italy, which beat Britain 10-5 behind three goals from captain Tania di Mario to finish third in Group B.