Trojans Fall In NCAA Championship
May 10, 2009
COLLEGE PARK, MD. - The top-seeded USC women's water polo team was edged out in the NCAA Championship game, falling 5-4 to UCLA in Sunday's title match in College Park, Md. After cutting into the Bruins' two-goal lead late in the third period, the Trojans were able to hold UCLA scoreless in the second half, but were unable to push through a tying strike in regulation. Left with the season-ending loss in their third NCAA final in the past four years, USC finishes 2009 with a 26-2 overall record.
The Bruins got an early jump on the Trojans thanks to a 5-meter penalty earned on their first possession. UCLA would wind up with two penalty scores in the game, both converted by Tanya Gandy. After UCLA went ahead 1-0 on its first penalty strike, the Bruins finished off a score off a turnover to go up 2-0 in the first minute of play. Michelle Stein would carry the Trojans back even with the Bruins with a quick 6-on-5 score at 5:11. Minutes later, the USC offense would work the ball around for Stein again, as Alexandra Kiss put the ball into set for Kami Craig, Craig popped the ball back to Kiss, and Kiss hit Stein for the equalizer at 2:35. Two UCLA 6-on-5 advantages later, however, the Bruins were back ahead with a bar-in score at 1:15 to go ahead 3-2 in the first period.
The cage proved troublesome for the Trojans in the next period, with numerous bar-out plaguing the USC offense. An early UCLA counterattack lifted the Bruins ahead 4-2 at 6:57, but USC finally got to the back of the net on a Kiss lob at 3:25 to make it 4-3. A minute and a half later, however, the Bruins were granted another trip to the penalty spot, planting another 5-meter penalty score on the board for a 5-3 lead. That would stand through the period, bringing up the second half of play with USC trailing by two.
Goalie Tumua Anae nabbed four saves in the third period to ward off UCLA hopes of adding to its lead. Instead, USC worked in to within one when Forel Davies skidded in a big 6-on-5 score for the Trojans with just nine seconds left in the third.
Down 5-4 for the fourth period, USC's defense stayed stingy and shut out the Bruins once again. Despite powerful play from Craig at two meters, USC could not find an equalizer in the period and ran out of time. Anae would finish with 11 saves in the game for the USC defense, and Stein led the Trojans with her two goals from the first period. Stein finishes her senior year with 75 goals scored - the third most in USC history - and has 170 career goals to stand at No. 7 all-time.
NCAA CHAMPIONSHIP - Eppley Recreation Center Natatorium (College Park, Md.)
SAVES: Tumua Anae (USC) 11, Brittany Fullen (UCLA) 12.
USC Head Coach Jovan Vavic
On the game:
On the season:
USC Senior Driver Michelle Stein
On her performance:
On the season: