Margaret Steffens of the United States in action against Hungary in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics Water Polo, Women's Group B match. Image Credit: Reuters

Tokyo: The United States women’s water polo team entered the Tokyo Games regarded as a heavy favorite to win an unprecedented third consecutive Olympic gold medal.

The U.S. team had not lost a match en route to gold medals in 2012 at London and 2016 at Rio de Janeiro.

That streak ended yesterday.

Hungary defeated the U.S., 10-9, in a preliminary round game at Tatsumi Water Polo Centre, the United States’ first defeat since losing to the Netherlands in the gold-medal match at the 2008 Beijing Games.

Not a surprise

“We haven’t lost a lot but the way the media portrays that discredits our opponents as everyone’s so good,” U.S. center/defender Melissa Seidemann, who is playing in her third Olympics, told reporters.

“It’s not a surprise to us (the result). We knew it was going to be a battle and we look forward to the next time we get to see them.”

The U.S. led 8-6 after three quarters, but Hungary tied the score 9-9 with 1 minute, 53 seconds left. Center Rebecca Parkes scored the game-winning goal with 45 seconds left, her third goal of the game.

U.S. coach Adam Krikorian told reporters that it was the “the most physical game that we played in the last 13 or 17 games that we’ve had,” leading up to the Olympics. The defdeat also ends the longest winning streak in women’s water polo at the Games at 12 matches.

“They’re probably the tallest and most physical team there is out there,” Krikorian said. “So just in general they take up a lot of space and you have to hand it to them. They’re an excellent team. I wouldn’t be surprised if they go a long way in this tournament.”

Greta Gurisatti of Hungary and Rita Keszthelyi of Hungary react. Image Credit: Reuters

Hungary goalkeeper Alda Magyari stopped 11 of 20 shots.

Good blocks

“She played well and she’s big,” Krikorian said. “I mean she just takes up a lot of goal, but she’s also got some good [defensive] shot blocks in front of her.”

Maddie Musselman scored three goals and Rachel Fattal and Makenzie Fischer each scored two goals for the U.S. team.

The U.S. fell to 2-1 in preliminary-round play. It plays ROC tomorrow.

His team has not lost very often, but Krikorian said the feeling was not entirely unfamiliar.

“You know it is, but it isn’t in some ways,” he said. “Maybe you wouldn’t believe this, but when you imagine the game, I think it’s unrealistic to think you always imagine winning. I’ve certainly imagined losing before and that mental preparation is part of this experience.

“It hasn’t happened in a while, but at the same time it’s happened in my mind many times.”