No. 2 Trojans Take Down No. 1 Stanford To Win UCI Invitational Championship
Feb. 24, 2013
IRVINE, CALIF. -- The No. 2 USC women's water polo team packed some championship punch in a resounding 13-10 takedown of top-ranked Stanford today to win the title at the UCI Invitational. That topped off a big day for the Women of Troy, who opened up with an 11-10 win over No. 3 UCLA in today's semifinal before drumming up this evening's championship push past the Cardinal. USC stays perfect with a 12-0 overall record with the win, which was the first loss of the year for the defending NCAA champ Stanford.
USC and Stanford would stand locked at 8-8 before the Trojans rammed home three straight scores on goals from Kelly Mendoza, Hannah Buckling and Monica Vavic to go up 11-8. The Cardinal trimmed the USC lead down to one, but some rock-hard USC defense anchored by a stingy USC goalie Flora Bolonyai in the cage paired with goals from Anni Espar and Vavic to secure the championship win for the Trojans. Espar would finish with a game-high four goals for the Trojans, with Vavic and Hannah Buckling adding a hat trick apiece to charge up the USC offense for the win. Bolonyai also hauled in nine saves in the win, including a 5-meter penalty stop in the fourth period of play to bring home victory for USC.
Anni Espar and Colleen O'Donnell brought USC a 4-2 lead, and another Espar blast answered a Stanford strike to get USC a 5-3 advantage. The Cardinal would pull even 5-5 thanks in part to a 5-meter penalty shot finished by Stanford's Melissa Siedemann. That would keep a spark in a four-goal Stanford surge to a 7-5 lead. That prompted back-to-back rockets from USC newcomer Hannah Buckling, equalizing things 7-7 on the way into halftime.
Buckling would make it three in a row out of the break to punch USC back ahead 8-7. After Stanford locked it back up at 8-8, the Women of Troy would generate a rally. Kelly Mendoza, Buckling and Monica Vavic drove home three in a row for the Trojans to take an 11-8 advantage into the fourth frame.
The Cardinal would end the Trojan scoring surge on its first possession, then cut it down to one at 11-10 as the 6-minute mark came up. After a Stanford penalty shot went awry, USC would pounce on its next possession as Vavic delivered a slick score for a 12-10 bump, then nabbed the steal for the Trojan defense. Espar made good on the ensuing chance, with her top shelf score taking USC ahead 13-10 with 2:28 to go. USC goalie Flora Bolonyai made a back-breaking save in the final minute on a Maggie Steffens shot to give USC a huge defensive lift. Bolonyai would deny Steffens again, and USC was in the books with a big 13-10 win over the top-ranked Cardinal to bring home the tournament championship.
USC now makes the transition from tournament play to a single-game weekend with a trip to Berkeley. The Trojans will pay a visit to Cal for a 1 p.m. clash on Saturday (March 2).
2013 UCI INVITATIONAL (Irvine, Calif.)
CHAMPIONSHIP - Feb. 24
SAVES: Flora Bolonyai (USC) 9, Baldoni (STAN) 8.