No. 3 USC Edged In Sudden Death By No. 6 Seed ASU
April 25, 2014
LOS ANGELES, CALIF. - The No. 3 USC women's water polo team had the ticket to the MPSF Semifinals stolen away in sudden death when No. 6 seed Arizona State managed the winner on a strange play in front of the Trojan goal. The score gave the Sun Devils a 10-9 victory over the Women of Troy and put ASU into tomorrow's MPSF Tournament semifinals. USC, meanwhile, will play in a consolation semifinal for the right to play for fifth place in the tourney, held at Uytengsu Aquatics Center. The loss is just USC's third this season, putting the Trojans with a 22-3 overall record. ASU is now 15-8 overall with the upset win.
After taking an early 3-1 lead, the Trojans found themselves playing catchup once the Sun Devils countered with a four-goal run to take a 5-3 advantage during the second half. USC would pull even at 5-5, but still was faced with a come-from-behind situations the rest of the way. The Trojans equalized at 7-7 and then defied the odds with another equalizer - this one on a blast from Kaleigh Gilchrist - to make it 8-8 with just 2 seconds left in regulation. Again, ASU responded, netting a go-ahead goal in the first OT. In the second, Eike Daube rocketed one in to make it 9-9, and the score would hold to bring up sudden death. Defense stiffened on both ends in that frame, but that's when ASU caught a lucky break. A long pass toward 2-meters prompted USC goalie Flora Bolonyai to come out and contest the close-range chance. She'd get there, and the shot attempt was just a weak effort. The ball floated toward the cage but was well short of crossing the line as Bolonyai made her move to gather in the loose ball. Her progress was seemingly impeded, giving ASU's Izabella Chiappini the time to get to the ball first from the wing. With no referee whistle blowing a foul to halt the play, she'd shove the loose ball across the line for the score and the win with 1:39 on the clock in OT.
It was a bitter end to a game where the Trojans had home-pool advantage and in which Bolonyai made USC history. The first save of her eventual 12-save game pulled the Trojan senior to the top of the all-time list in saves, making Bolonyai the undisputed career saves leader for the Women of Troy.
USC looked in good form to start the game, responding to an ASU 6-on-5 score with a counterpuch of three straight goals. Some smooth ball movement generated goals from Olivia Cummins off a pass from Monica Vavic and then a sister act from the Haralabidis twins, who had Stephania find Ioanna for a go-ahead strike for the Trojans. Up 2-1, USC had more in the tank, with Jennifer Stiefel plugging one into the top corner for a 3-1 USC lead. Neither team would convert on their next power play chances, and that USC lead held through to the second frame. In that period, though, USC went quiet, unable to break through while ASU made its move. While the Trojans struggled to find the back of the net, ASU's Chiappini single-handedly took the Sun Devils into the lead with three goals in the frame for a 4-3 ASU advantage by halftime.
In the third, ASU struck again, shellshocking the Trojans with a 5-3 margin midway through the frame. USC finally broke 15 minutes of scoring silence with a bullet that made it 5-4 with 1:55 on the clock. Thirty seconds later, Jayde Appel pulled USC even at 5-5 with a slick lob to finish off a USC counterattack, only to see ASU grab back the lead on a backhand out of set in the final minute of the third. Some strong play by Madeline Rosenthal at 2-meters for the Trojans helped set up Cummins for an early equalizer as the senior hammered home the chance to make it 6-6. ASU would wrap two successful 6-on-5 series around a goal from Vavic to retain a lead, heaping pressure on the Trojans to find an answer. Kaleigh Gilchrist was up to the challenge, rifling in a searing 6-on-5 score with just 2 ticks away from the buzzer to make it 8-8 and bring up overtime action.
That's where ASU again found a go-ahead goal, this one from Ao Gao - her fourth of the day - in the final minute of the first frame of OT. In the next, Daube had her say with a ripper to make it 9-9. USC would have a chance to win it, on the attack after a timeout with 17 seconds left, but ASU's stubborn goalie E.B. Keeve remained a force to reckon with, as she hauled in another save to stop the Trojans and bring up sudden death, where the Sun Devils would prevail on an odd finish to an otherwise competitive game.
USC will face Bakersfield tomorrow (April 26) in a 10:30 a.m. game at Uytengsu Aquatics Center to play for a spot in Sunday's fifth-place game and improve the Trojans' chances of scoring an NCAA at-large berth.
#6 Arizona State 10, #3 USC 9 (SD)