LONDON -- Danville's Maggie Steffens traveled to Beijing in 2008 to watch big sister Jessica play in the Olympics. And she could only cheer on the U.S. water polo team as the Americans lost in the gold-medal match.

This time, Steffens was in the water. And she made sure that history wasn't repeated.

Water polo's newest star, Steffens scored five goals to help give the U.S. its first-ever gold medal as the Americans cruised to an 8-5 victory over Spain on Thursday.

"I am speechless. It still hasn't sunk in," U.S. captain Brenda Villa said. "I can't describe it. It's the end of a journey, and I got my fairy-tale ending."

The U.S. has long been a power in women's water polo. But the Americans had never translated their success at other major competitions to the Olympics, taking bronze in 2004 and silver in 2000 and 2008.

It was a veteran team that came to London with high expectations. The team is loaded with Bay Area connections. Coach Adam Krikorian is a Mountain View native. And seven players are from the area, including team mainstays Villa of Stanford and Heather Petri of Cal -- who both were competing in their fourth and final Games.

But it was a teenager who led them.

Steffens, 19, who will be attending Stanford in the fall, led all scorers at the Olympics with 21 goals is six games. She started off the Olympics by scoring seven goals in a tournament-opening, 14-13 victory over Hungary. And she finished by handling the offensive load for the Americans in the gold-medal game.

"I've looked up to Brenda and Peti, and I was at the 2008 games and I felt that passion of the loss," she said. "I wanted this for Brenda and Peti -- to be able to retire and go out with the happiness of having gold, and for the '08 girls, to fill that void, to get the gold medal."

Steffens was unstoppable against Spain, scoring with long-distance shots, outmuscling Spanish defenders in front of goal to score from close range and even slotting home a penalty shot.

The U.S. also got a sterling performance from goalkeeper Betsey Armstrong.

The Americans overpowered a young Spanish team on both ends of the pool to lead 5-2 by halftime, and they never looked back.