London, England – There is no doubt which one of the four Olympic medals Brenda Villa and Heather Petri will have the fondest memory of.
Behind five goals from Maggie Steffens and one each by Villa and Petri, the United States knocked off Spain 8-5 to win the final of the women's water polo tournament on Thursday.
It had been a long time coming for Villa and Petri, who had previously won a pair of silver medals sandwiched around a bronze at the 2004 Athens Games. The victory finally added a gold medal to a U.S. resume that includes world championships, a world cup and world league title.
"I am speechless, it still hasn't sunk in. We played great defense today and that is what won us the medal. There are no words to explain how I'm feeling, but to go through the last four years with the players who were in Beijing and the new players here, like Maggie, it means the world to me, I can't describe it. It's the end of a journey and I got my fairytale ending," said Villa.
Steffens played a big part in the success at London, scoring 21 goals. Four of those came in the initial three periods and her final tally of the game pushed the American's lead to 8-2 less than a minute into the fourth period.
Spain followed with three tallies, getting the last two from Anni Espar Llaquet, but couldn't completely close the gap.
Betsey Armstrong logged eight saves for the U.S.
"It's awesome, I can't believe it - I'm so proud of the team," Petri said.
The Spaniards did manage to pick up a silver medal in their Olympic debut and received three goals from Jennifer Pareja. However, goalie Laura Ester Ramos managed to stop just two of the 10 shots fired her way.
The gold medal match had a bit less drama than the earlier meeting between Hungary and Australia for third place. Hungary nearly stole itself a bronze medal after forcing extra time in incredible fashion, but Australia rebounded for a 13-11 win.
Australian goalkeeper Alicia McCormack was attempting to run off the final seconds of the fourth period, but didn't see Dora Antal sneak up on her underwater. Antal than stole the ball and managed to score a tying marker as time expired.
The Aussies didn't let things slip away in extra time, getting a pair of goals from Gemma Beadsworth while McCormack kept Hungary out of the net.
Beadsworth tallied four goals for Australia, which duplicated its win over Hungary in the 2008 Beijing Games bronze medal match. The Aussies won that contest 12-11 in a penalty shootout.
In classification action, China edged Russia for fifth place, while Italy topped Great Britain in a battle for seventh place.