Local Olympians to Watch Monday

After tasting second for so many years, the U.S. women's water polo team says they have the recipe for victory

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Among the local athletes to watch Monday as the London 2012 Summer Olympics continues competition are water polo players, a Coronado sailor and rowers who trained in Chula Vista.

Women's water polo took victory Monday in a preliminary round against Hungary, in a close 14-13 win.

California native Maggie Steffens set a record with seven goals scored during the game. Steffens' performance kept the lead during the game, as Hungary crept up closely behind. She is the youngest player on the team, which is favored to win the gold medal this year next to Australia.

Head coach Adam Krikorian was impressed with Steffen's seven goals, but acknowledged the team mentality needed to win.

"She played great, but a win is never up to a individual," he said after the game. "This is not basketball - here you need some help."

The win was by no means an easy one. Both teams were physically aggressive, which made for some mistakes that resulted in penalties for the team.

"The first game is always rough," Steffens said. "It was great to play an aggressive fast team like Hungary and get everything out there and get through the nerves."

The women are now just one step closer to winning the gold for the first time in their Olympics history.

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At last year’s Summer Olympic Games, the team was slated to take the gold. In the final minutes of the game, the Netherlands team blocked a goal, taking the win. The Americans were heartbroken.

In the Summer Olympic Games prior to 2008, they took silver as well. Before that – a bronze medal. They have never won a gold medal while women have been allowed to compete in the games.

Now, with seven of the same 13 players who lost against the Netherlands in 2008, they’re equipped with a veteran mentality.

“I think our chances look really good,” said team captain Brenda Villa. “We've been training really hard for the past four years. We're training and not taking anything for granted so we want to come out on top.”

San Diego’s Kelly Rulon started out the match, and scored one point in the second quarter.  During the four-game Olympic tune-up earlier this month, the Point Loma native scored three goals in the 9-4 win in the final game.

Rulon, a graduate of Cathedral High School, represents talent in the water polo hub of the country. More than half the U.S. Women's Waterpolo team grew up south of Santa Barbara. All but two are from California.

"Obviously Southern California is probably the most competitive area in the country in regards to water polo," Rulon said in an interview with NBC 7 before leaving for the Olympic Summer Games.

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Rulon, who went to UCLA where she broke the collegiate scoring record, played on the 2004 bronze medal team in Athens.

After sitting out the 2008 games, she's now back on the national squad as a driver and one of the team's best passers.

Also competing Monday, Coronado sailor Molly O'Bryan Vandemoer continues in the round robin preliminary races with teammates Anna Tunnicliffe and Debbie Capozzi.

U.S. Rowing's Men's Four advanced to the semifinals Monday.  Watch highlights here

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Archer Miranda Leek of the Chula Vista Olympic Training Center failed to advance beyond the Round of 32 Monday. Her teammates Khatuna Lorig and Jennifer Nichols also compete Monday. See results here

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