Steffens sisters first-time teammates in London
By Ann Killion
LONDON - Four years ago, Maggie Steffens was a wide-eyed adolescent wandering around Beijing, wishing she could be on her big sister's water polo team.
This week in London, she's on the team. And she's dominating.
Steffens, an incoming freshman at Stanford this fall, scored seven goals in the U.S. women's water polo team's first game against Hungary. The colossal output tied the women's single game Olympic record and spurred the Americans to a 14-13 victory.
"Maggie was always a stud in every sport," said Jessica, who is on her second Olympic team. "We all knew she was destined for greatness."
The Steffens sisters are excited about sharing this journey together, which is unusual in the big picture, but not in the small picture. Because the Steffens family has been sharing water polo for a long time.
Their father Carlos fell in love with the sport as a child in Puerto Rico. He came to play for Cal, becoming a three-time All American and leading the Bears to the 1977 NCAA title. Their uncle Peter Schnugg, also was an All-American at Cal - his sister Peggy married Carlos. Jessica, 25, was an All-American at Stanford, her brother Charlie and sister Teresa both played for Cal.
But Jessica said their father didn't push them into the sport. She didn't want to play because she was intimidated by what she saw of water polo on video. Her dad just goofed around with his children in the pool.
"I just kind of fell into it in high school and I found out I was naturally pretty good," Jessica said. "When we were little, he would play keep-away and subtly teach us the game without forcing us into it."
And now, there's 19-year old Maggie, who graduated from high school in 2011 but deferred her admittance to Stanford for a year in order to move to Southern California and train with the water polo team. She missed her high school graduation because she was playing in a tournament in China: she still has never seen her real diploma but cherishes the fake one made for her by her coaches.
Maggie and Jessica - who grew up in Danville, Calif. - are six years apart so they never played on the same competitive team, though sometimes Maggie would train with the older girls.
"I've wanted to play with her since I was little," said Maggie. "It's really special to be here."
In Beijing, Steffens remembers being on the outside - of places like the pool and the athlete's village - looking in, and wishing she were on the inside.
"Now I'm here," she said. "Everything is a wow moment. But as much as it seems overwhelming, to share it with my teammates makes it seem natural."
Things definitely seemed to come naturally in the first game against Hungary.
"Am I surprised? No," said Jessica after the game. "She has so much potential in her and I think she's been waiting to bust out her skin.
Was I happy? Yes."