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Current, former UCLA water polo players make splash at FINA World Championships

Maddie Musselman winds up in a game against USC on April 16. The recent graduate scored five goals in the gold medal match against Hungary to secure a win for Team USA. (Joseph Jimenez/Assistant Photo editor)

By Kyle Boal

July 7, 2022 8:04 p.m.

This post was updated July 10 at 11:32 p.m.

With 49 seconds remaining and her team up by one, Maddie Musselman swam to the five-meter line.

The recent UCLA women’s water polo graduate converted the penalty shot – her fifth goal of the game – to lead Team USA to its fourth consecutive gold medal at the FINA World Championships in Budapest, Hungary, on Saturday.

Musselman was named MVP of the game in Team USA’s 9-7 victory over Hungary in front of a crowd of over 6,000 fans. The now 15-time FINA and Olympic gold medalist finished the tournament 11-of-14 with five assists while leading her team in plus/minus at +14, according to 6-8 Sports, earning a spot on the Media All-Star team.


But Musselman wasn’t the only former Bruin representing Team USA at the FINA World Championships, also known as the World Aquatics Championships.

Recent graduate Ava Johnson and 2017 graduate Rachel Fattal also competed on the women’s national team – which has won every major international title since 2014 – led by Adam Krikorian, who won 15 national championships total as a player and coach for UCLA men’s and women’s water polo.

Johnson made her FINA World Championship debut in the tournament, recording eight drawn exclusions while never being excluded herself across three contests. Fattal, on the other hand, earned her 20th international gold medal, as she competed in every sprint for Team USA at the tournament and recorded a plus/minus of +7.7.

After his team won both the opening two games by at least five goals, Krikorian said in a statement for USA Water Polo that the difference in the gold medal game was his team’s defense and approach.

“Our defense was phenomenal, really throughout the entire game,” Krikorian said in the statement. “Also just our composure. I can’t speak enough about just how unfazed we are in difficult situations and moments, and it didn’t get any more difficult than playing in front of six, seven thousand Hungarian fans.”

The men’s national team also competed in the event, taking sixth place behind current UCLA men’s water polo rising sophomore attacker Chase Dodd and rising senior attacker Tommy Gruwell, as well as 2017 graduates Max Irving and Matt Farmer. The men’s team has not placed on the podium at the FINA World Championships since it won in 1997.

Entering the fourth quarter tied against Hungary in its second match, Team USA scored back to back courtesy of Dodd and Irving, but the quarter closed at 11 goals apiece. The two squads began shootouts, with Irving converting one of the five goals that eventually led Team USA to outlast its opponent and advance to the fifth-place match where it would fall to Serbia.

With international play coming to a close for the summer, Dodd and Gruwell will rejoin the UCLA men’s water polo team in September as it looks to win its fifth national championship in nine years.

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Kyle Boal | Sports senior staff
Boal is currently a Sports senior staff writer on the women's water polo beat. He was an assistant Sports editor on the gymnastics, rowing, swim and dive, men's water polo and women's water polo beats. Boal was previously a contributor on the men's water polo and women's water polo beats.
Boal is currently a Sports senior staff writer on the women's water polo beat. He was an assistant Sports editor on the gymnastics, rowing, swim and dive, men's water polo and women's water polo beats. Boal was previously a contributor on the men's water polo and women's water polo beats.
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