The Perfect Season: USC Wins The National Championship!|
May 9, 2004
STANFORD, Calif. - Freshman Brittany Hayes (Santa Ana/Foothill HS) scored three goals and added four assists Sunday as the USC Trojans defeated the Loyola Marymount Lions, 10-8, to capture the 2004 NCAA Women's Water Polo Championship. The Women of Troy become the first team in the brief four-year history of the NCAA Championship to go undefeated on the season as USC registered a 29-0 record.
For her efforts, Hayes was named tournament most valuable player after scoring five goals in two matches.
"I was always confident in my team," said Hayes.
The No. 1 seed Women of Troy complete the water polo sweep after the USC men's team won the 2003 NCAA Championship in December at Stanford. It is the second time that the USC men's and women's teams have won a national title in the same school year. The 1998 men's team won the NCAA title, while the 1999 women's team won the National Collegiate Championship (women's water polo was not an NCAA-sponsored championship until 2001).
With the win, USC now has four national championships during the 2003-04 school year (football, women's volleyball and men's water polo), the most team titles since 1976-77 when USC teams registered a combined five championships.
No. 3 seed LMU (25-6) made its first-ever Division I championship appearance in any sport after upsetting No. 2 seed and host Stanford yesterday, 5-4, in semifinal action.
"This is big time for us after we had three difficult years," said USC head coach Jovan Vavic. "Once you win a national title, it's like getting a huge monkey off your back. I did not really look at the (29-0) record because for us, it was more important to win the title."
USC scored first when sophomore two-meter Moriah Van Norman (San Diego/University HS) drew an ejection. The Women of Troy converted on Lauren Wenger's (Long Beach/Wilson HS) touch shot in front off an assist from Hayes on the six-on-five. Hayes added a lob shot at 3:03 to make it a 2-0 lead in the first.
Both teams traded goals late in the first with Cara Colton scoring on a lob shot for the Lions, countered by USC Erin Wilson's (Huntington Beach/Marina HS) skip shot with 12 seconds remaining.
Colton led the Lions with a team-high four goals.
In the second, senior Liz Simms (Balmain, Sydney, Australia) scored off Hayes' third assist of the match, but the Lions responded 17 seconds later on Devon Wright's goal for a 4-2 USC advantage.
"I thought Simms did a good job of controlling the offense and forcing us to make adjustments," said LMU head coach John Loughran.
Van Norman, the 2004 Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Player of the Year, made a key block on an LMU shot at 3:08 of the second period. USC goalie Kelly Graff (Irvine/Irvine HS) deflected a lob shot at the five-minute mark of the second period to maintain the two-goal lead.
"Van Norman made the difference today with the number of ejections she was able to draw," said Loughran.
Wright drew a four-meter penalty shot for the Lions after being fouled by USC's Eszter Gyori. Wright converted at 6:26 for her second goal, cutting the USC lead to 4-3.
At the start of the second half, Van Norman drew another ejection to put USC on the six-on-five power play. Gyori converted at 0:38 for the Women of Troy, but Stacia Peterson answered quickly for the Lions with a goal at 1:27. USC made it a 6-4 match when Hayes drew an ejection and scored on the ensuing power play.
Both teams traded goals again in the third. Van Norman scored her first goal of the match for USC while Colton scored at 4:04 for LMU. Hayes rounded out the scoring again by drawing an ejection and registering the goal off the right side as the Women of Troy held an 8-5 advantage after three periods.
Colton scored on back-to-back goals for the Lions midway through the fourth period as LMU cut it to a one-goal deficit, 8-7. Junior Anna Pardo (Barcelona, Spain) put the Women of Troy back up by two with a goal at 3:52. Graff made two key saves in the latter part of the period, stopping Colton's lob attempt at the five-minute mark and making a point-blank stuff on Teresa Guidi's shot in front with 50 seconds remaining.
"I think Kelly is one of the top goalies in the nation," said Hayes. "When you have her and a strong defense in front of her, I had a lot of faith in my teammates today."
Graff held onto the ball as the time wound down. The Women of Troy celebrated by grabbing Vavic and the rest of his staff, pushing them into the pool for the traditional championship celebration. USC will be loaded for the future as the team graduates only two seniors (Graff and Simms) from this year's squad.
"We should be in great shape for the next few years," said Vavic. "The fun part is that we are young and very talented."
2004 NCAA WOMEN'S WATER POLO CHAMPIONSHIP
LMU 1-2-2-3-8 USC 3-1-4-2-10
LMU Goals: Cara Colton 4, Stacia Peterson 3, Devon Wright
USC 3rd 0:38 Eszter Gyori - 6-on-5