World Cup champions
Local water polo players Paige Hauschild (left), Jamie Neushul, Kiley Neushul and Amanda Longan show off their gold medals and the World Cup. (Peter Neushul photo)

Two weeks ago, they were playing in the Santa Barbara High pool, celebrating the career of Kami Craig.

On Sunday, local players Kiley Neushul, Jamie Neushul, Paige Hauschild and Amanda Longan were in Surgut, Russia standing on the top of the podium and wearing gold medals with the rest of their U.S. water polo teammates after beating host Russia in the championship game of the FINA World Cup.

The U.S. jumped out to an early lead and beat Russia, 8-5, to win its third straight World Cup and fourth overall.

It was the first for the local players, who have won a world championship and World League Super Final titles in their short careers. Kiley Neushul also has an Olympics gold medal from 2016.

Maggie Steffens, who helped the team to back-to-back Olympic gold medals in 2012 and 2016, led the team in scoring with three goals on six shots and was named MVP, while Jamie Neushul contributed two goals on three shots.

Paige Hauschild, a USC sophomore and a San Marcos alum who scored seven goals in one game during the tournament, added one goal. She finished second behind tournament scoring leader Anna Espar Llaquet of Spain with 15 goals.

Sisters Aria and Makenzie Fischer, who won Olympic gold in 2016, also scored for the U.S. and goalkeeper Ashleigh Johnson made 14 saves, limiting the Russians to just one goal in each of the first three quarters as the U.S. built up a 7-3 lead heading into the fourth. 

Russia was playing in the World Cup final for the first time in 21 years after defeating Australia in the semifinal Saturday. The U.S. defeated Spain to reach the final.

The win means the U.S. maintains its hold on all major women’s water polo titles: Olympic Games, world championships, World League, World Cup. Team USA also holds the Pan American Games and Intercontinental Tournament titles.

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Barry Punzal, Sports Editor

— Noozhawk sports editor Barry Punzal can be reached at Follow Noozhawk Sports on Twitter: @NoozhawkSports. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.