Defensive Battle Falls In UCLA's Favor; USC To Play For Third At NCAA Tournament
May 10, 2014
LOS ANGELES, CALIF. -- The defending national champions came up on the wrong end of a defensive battle today. The No. 3 seed in the 2014 NCAA Tournament, the USC women's water polo team went up against No. 2 seed UCLA to fight for the right to advance to tomorrow's NCAA Championship game. Playing in the Trojans' home pool -- the newly upgraded Uytengsu Aquatics Center -- today's semifinal bout was an all-LA tilt. The Bruins were able to lock in the win on some stubborn defense that fended off the Trojan attack to finish out a 5-3 UCLA victory. Now holding a 25-4 overall record on the year, USC heads into the third-place game tomorrow (May 11) at 3:30 p.m.
UCLA managed a 2-0 lead on some perfectly placed shots from distance in the first period to counter otherwise stingy Trojan defense. Monica Vavic would break through at the other end with a searing skipper that pulled USC within one, down 2-1 as the first frame came to a close. In the second, USC senior goalie Flora Bolonyai was a force to reckon with. She'd slam away several Bruins close-range chances, while fellow Trojan Jayde Appel went to work at 2-meters. The Aussie would earn a crucial 5-meter penalty shot for the Trojan cause, and Vavic deposited the opportunity to the back of the net, equalizing things at 2-2 in the first minute of the second period. More Bolonyai saves kept USC in the game in the next stretch, although UCLA would manage a bar-in strike to go back ahead 3-2. The Bruins went up on a power play in the final minute, and finished the power play for a 4-2 lead by halftime.
Both defenses stood tall the rest of the way, with only two goals busting through in the remaining 16 minutes of action. More strong play from Appel gave USC another 5-meter penalty shot, and this one was swiftly converted by freshman Stephania Haralabidis to cut the deficit to 4-3. Bolonyai put a stop to a Bruin power play next, while Madeline Rosenthal shined at both ends of the pool, earning a 6-on-5 for the Trojans late in the period. The ensuing shot went wide, however, and USC remained in a one-goal hole entering the fourth.
There, Rosenthal again got USC a chance with another 6-on-5. And yet again, the Bruin defense made a stand. UCLA was able to knock down numerous USC shots on field blocks throughout the game, and another one would shut down USC's first chance to equalize. Then, UCLA managed a score from distance to jump to a 5-3 advantage with 5:54 to go in the game. A stalemate ensued as time ticked further and further down on USC's efforts to fight back. In the end, UCLA's defensive stand was the difference, leaving USC short of a shot at defending its 2013 NCAA crown.
The Trojans will face No. 4 seed California tomorrow in the NCAA Third Place game at 3:30 p.m. at Uytengsu Aquatics Center. UCLA and Stanford will face off in the title match at 5:30 p.m.
2014 NCAA CHAMPIONSHIPS
SAVES: Flora Bolonyai (USC) 7, Sami Hill (UCLA) 5.