Women of Troy Storm Into NCAA Semifinals
May 13, 2011
ANN ARBOR, MICH - The USC women's water polo team went big in the fourth period of play to punch its ticket to an eighth straight NCAA Semifinal appearance with a 14-9 win over UC Irvine today in Ann Arbor, Mich. The Trojans never trailed, but found the Anteaters within reach until a breakout final frame saw USC pull away. No. 4 seed USC outscored No. 5 UC Irvine 7-2 in the fourth to roll into tomorrow's 4:30 p.m. ET semifinal against top-seeded Stanford at Michigan's Canham Natatorium.
The Women of Troy stayed composed on every occasion that the Anteaters would cut in on the USC leads. Locked up in five ties, the Trojans pulled out of a 7-7 draw entering the fourth period by forging ahead on a four-goal surge that the Anteaters could not answer. By the final buzzer, USC had pinned up seven goals in the final frame at the hands of six different Trojans, with Patricia Jancso punching in a pair to finish with four goals on the day to lead a hat trick from Nadia Dan, a pair from Joelle Bekhazi and Dominique Sardo, and a goal apiece by Kristen Dronberger, Kaleigh Gilchrist and Nicolina McCall. USC goalie Flora Bolonyai hauled in nine saves to help anchor the USC defense.
A pair of Jancso goals accounted for USC's first strikes of the game, while Dan and Bekhazi helped pull the Trojans ahead 4-2 before the Anteaters knocked one in before the break to make it 4-3 USC with one quarter down. Sardo and Bolonyai put a stop to an Anteater counterattack to open the second, but UC Irvine would equalize soon after. A Bolonyai save against a UCI 6-on-5 kept the Anteaters from moving ahead, and a Sarah Van Norman quieted another UCI attack later in the second. Sardo converted on a USC 6-on-5 in the final minute, only to have the Anteaters gain a late power play advantage and finish it off to make a 5-5 lockup at the half.
USC enjoyed another two-goal edge in the third when Kristen Dropberger ripped in a skipper to start and Dan finished off a pass from Bekhazi to make it 7-5 USC. Again, UCI would pull back even, getting a 6-on-5 lob to go and later a score off a foul to put it at 7-7 on the way into the fourth period.
That's where the Trojans kicked into high gear. Jancso started off the surge with a rocket to the back of the cage as the teams pulled even on a 6-on-5. Another Bekhazi assist fed a Dan blast from the top for a 9-7 USC advantage that put wind in the Trojans' sails. Colleen O'Donnell crossed to fellow freshman Kaleigh Gilchrist for a nearside strike that made it 10-7, and Sardo's second of the day put USC ahead 11-7. UCI ended the run with a score off a rebound, but USC went around the horn on a 6-on-5 for a finisher from Jancso. Goals from Bekhazi and Nicolina McCall followed, and USC was out of reach, up 14-8 with 27 ticks to go. UCI finished off the day with a 5-meter penalty shot with 9 seconds left, but the quarterfinal victory was in Trojan hands with a 14-9 USC advantage in the books.
Tomorrow's 4:30 p.m. ET matchup with Stanford marks a rematch of last year's NCAA championship game, in which the Trojans claimed their fourth national championship with a 10-9 victory over the Cardinal in the 2010 title match.
 USC 14,  UC Irvine 9