Four years ago, Maggie Steffens watched from the stands as her sister Jessica and the rest of the U.S. women's water polo team fell one goal short against the Netherlands in the final of the Beijing Olympics.
This year, the 19-year-old Steffens will be in the pool as she and the rest of the U.S. team get a fresh crack at a gold medal, this time against Spain in Thursday's final of the London Games.
''I was hoping I'd be in the same situation, but hopefully we can change and get a gold,'' Steffens said.
Despite being the youngest player on the team, Steffens has played a huge role for the Americans so far in London, netting seven goals in her Olympic debut against Hungary and four more in an 11-9 semifinal win against Australia on her way to racking up a tournament-leading tally of 16 so far.
''Oh, she's huge, she's a stud,'' U.S. goalkeeper Betsey Armstrong said. ''Like anybody on our team, she steps it up when she sees that as her role. We focus a lot on not being a two to three dominant-player team. We need anybody who can step up against any given team, and Maggie's filled that role well.''
The U.S. will likely need one more sparkling performance out of Steffens, not to mention Armstrong in goal, to beat an unbeaten Spain team that impressed in London with sharp shooting and solid defense.
First up, the Americans have to unwind after a punishing and nerve-racking semifinal Tuesday against rival Australia that went to overtime after coach Adam Krikorian made a huge blunder, calling for an illegal timeout, which handed a last-second penalty to Australia that was quickly converted to force the extra session.
The Americans recovered, behind a goals from Steffens and Kami Craig and some lock-down defensive play, to pull off the win, but it wasn't without drama.