USC Falls To Cardinal, Will Play For Third At NCAAs
May 14, 2011
ANN ARBOR, MICH. - The USC women's water polo team moves into the NCAA third-place game after taking an 8-4 loss to top-seeded Stanford in today's NCAA semifinals at Canham Natatorium in Ann Arbor, Mich. In a rematch of last year's national championship game, in which the Trojans captured their fourth national crown, the Cardinal were a step ahead throughout and relegated USC to this year's third-place game by holding off Trojan comeback hopes today. No. 4 seed USC goes to 19-7 overall and faces UCLA in tomorrow's 3 p.m. ET third-place game.
The tone for a defensive battle was set in the first frame. Stanford got on the board early with a quick strike on a 6-on-5 chance, and after a Sarah Van Norman steal interrupted the Cardinal's next attack, and USC went the other way. Dominique Sardo blasted the equalizer at the other end for the Trojans as the sophomore sliced in a score to make it 1-1 with 4:19 on the clock in the first. The defenses took control from there, with both goalies each silencing a 6-on-5 chance by their opponents to keep things tight. USC goalie Flora Bolonyai and Stanford's Amber Oland would both finish up the match with 10 saves apiece in a busy defensive day in Ann Arbor.
Stanford's defense clamped down hard in the second period of play, however, as USC came up empty on a string of 6-on-5 opportunities while the Cardinal managed a couple even strikes to jump ahead 3-1 by halftime. Stanford's scoring run would stretch to four straight as USC faced a 5-1 deficit midway through the third frame until breaking the silence at the 3:01 mark. Kristen Dronberger had earned USC the 6-on-5 advantage, and Patricia Jancso slung in a crosscage bar-in blast to make it 5-2. Stanford's Annika Dries broke through from set next for the Cardinal, making it a four-goal margin again, but Sardo found the near side on a Trojan power play in the final minute of the third to cut it to 6-3 entering the final frame.
USC threatened a comeback push when Joelle Bekhazi found Van Norman at two-meters, and Van Norman ripped in a sweep out of set to pull it to a two-goal game, trailing 6-4 with 6:52 on the clock. The Cardinal defense would not allow the Trojans to sneak any closer down the stretch, however, while Stanford made good on a 6-on-5 two minutes later, then managed a late lucky strike on an empty cage to finish things up as an 8-4 Cardinal win.
Stanford now moves into tomorrow's title match as the Cardinal look for their first national championship since 2002. After making its eighth straight appearance in the NCAA semifinals, USC will now play for third place tomorrow at 3 p.m. ET. against crosstown rival UCLA.
2011 NCAA Semifinals - Ann Arbor, Mich
SAVES: Flora Bolonyai (USC) 10, Amber Oland (STAN) 10.