USC Stuns Stanford With 10-6 Win In NCAA Semi
May 10, 2008
PALO ALTO, CALIF. - The USC women's water polo team posted a dominating effort against second-seeded host Stanford in the NCAA Semifinals on Saturday, tallying a 10-6 victory over the Cardinal for the Trojans' biggest win over Stanford since 2005. Behind hat tricks from Alexandra Kiss and Michelle Stein, No. 3 seed USC secured a trip to the NCAA Championship game, where the Trojans will face undefeated UCLA in the title match at 6 p.m. on Sunday (May 11) at Stanford's Avery Aquatic Center.
In Saturday's semifinal, the Women of Troy trailed by one twice during the first half, but remained undeterred. After three consecutive overtime matches with the Cardinal this season, the Trojans ensured a decisive win in regulation for this all-important NCAA clash. After numerous 6-on-5 chances went awry for the Trojans in the first three periods of play, USC adjusted and took the first two-goal lead of the game during the third period with a lob from Alexandra Kiss as the teams pulled even. Up 5-3, USC saw the Cardinal close back in to make it 5-4 with a 6-on-5 strike from Kelly Eaton. Four straight USC scores blasted the Trojans ahead by a whopping five goals to push the Cardinal far out of reach of a place in the upcoming NCAA championship game. USC's 10 goals were the most given up by the Stanford defense this season.
After a season's worth of one-goal decisions between the Trojans and the Cardinal, Saturday's match opened with a similar trend. Stanford scored out of set to take the first lead, while both teams misfired on three 6-on-5 chances apiece in the first period. With time draining in the first, USC went up on a late counter, and Michelle Stein fed the ball up to Veronika Bartunkova open on the drive for a crosscage skip that locked things up 1-1 with five second left in the first period. Alexandra Kiss registered her first goal of the day with a no-look strike two minutes into the second for a 2-1 USC edge, but Stanford pulled even on a power play 30 seconds later. The Cardinal would move ahead 3-2 with another converted 6-on-5 with three minutes remaining in the half, but the Trojan offense fired off two quick goals to steal back the lead. Julie Spataru delivered a slick pass to Kally Lucas on the left side for a sharp goal and a 3-3 tie-up at 2:45. USC got back on the attack soon after, and Lucas fed a pass in to Sarah Van Norman, who ripped a searing backhand into the cage to make it 4-3 USC - a lead the Trojans would never relinquish. The USC defense took away a Stanford pass to two meters, and goalie Tumua Anae smacked down a Cardinal counterattack to preserve the lead for halftime.
USC's defense remained stubborn, thanks to brilliant plays in the cage from Anae, who racked up 11 saves in the game - four of which came in the final period of play. To open the second half, Anae snuffed a Stanford backhand attempt out of set, and later, with 3:57 on the clock, Kiss launched that perfect lob for a 5-3 lead. Following Stanford's strike to make it 5-4, USC's Forel Davies walked it in and ripped a lookaway score to spark USC's four-goal run to its championship ticket.
In the final period, Kiss' third of the day came with a slick bar-in as the teams pulled even on a Trojan 6-on-5, lifting USC up 7-4. On USC's next possession, with the shot clock draining, Kristen Dronberger hit Michelle Stein for a shot to the top left corner to get USC ahead 8-4 with 6:27 remaining. A minute later, Miranda Nichols earned another power play for USC, and Stein took a pass from Lucas and slammed it home to make it 9-4. Stanford would get a nearside score next, but Stein made it three straight goals for herself with one last rocket from the junior with 4:16 left to play. The remaining time was more or less all Anae in the cage. The USC goalie made four big saves in the remaining four minutes, cracked only with 2 seconds left in the game after an illegal entry penalty by USC put Stanford's sharpshooter Lauren Silver at the 5-meter mark for a penalty shot to finish out the game as a 10-6 USC victory.
2008 NCAA Semifinal
SAVES: Tumua Anae (USC) 11, Amber Oland (STAN) 7.