Too much Maggie Steffens and a smothering defense wore down the upstart Spaniards, as Laguna favorite Annika Dries and Team USA captured their first gold medal in three tries and solidified their position as the best in the world.
Steffens tied the score at one in the first period on a skip shot. Then she gave the Americans the lead for good at 3-2 in the second on a quick shot from a perfect pass from Heather Petri. Steffens carried Team USA offensively throughout the 2012 games, finishing with five goals for the match and 21 for the tournament.
Team USA widened it’s lead to 5-2 at halftime on a perfectly placed lob from Petri just out of the reach of the goalkeeper, a five-meter bullet from Melissa Seidemann and two-meter shot from Steffens with a defender in her face.
Period three began with a score by Steffens on a penalty shot that put the Americans up 6-2. The goal seemed to suck the spirit out of the Spaniards, and a later score by Brenda Villa all but drove the final nail as the period ended with Team USA in command 7-2.
After a stuff block by Betsy Armstrong to start the final period, Steffens broke free and scored to make it 8-2. Spain put on a mini run, cutting the lead to 8-5 with three straight goals. But the tough USA defense shut down the comeback attempt and ran out the final minute to secure the gold.
Jen Kessy of Laguna Beach and April Ross of Newport Beach made a valiant attempt to unseat the two-time defending Olympic champs Misty May-Treanor and Kerry Walsh Jennings, but had to settle for silver in the first ever all-American beach volleyball final, losing this past Wednesday 21-16, 21-16. It was the final match for four-time Olympian May-Treanor, who has decided to retire after the games.
Number four seed and first time Olympians Ross/Kessy struggled to keep up with their veteran rivals, tying the score at 13 with an ace from Ross. May-Treanor/Walsh Jennings took over from there, outscoring the newcomers 8-3 down the stretch to take a one set lead.
Ross/Kessy came out strong in the second set, eventually taking a 9-8 lead on a block by Kessy. But two hitting errors put them in an 11-9 hole from which they could not recover, as timely digs and dink shots by May-Treanor/Walsh Jennings ended Ross/Kessy’s storybook run 21-16.