USC Finishes Fourth In NCAA Tournament
May 15, 2011
ANN ARBOR, MICH - The USC women's water polo team has closed down the 2011 season with a fourth-place finish in the NCAA Tournament after taking 6-5 loss to UCLA in the NCAA third-place game. The No. 4-seeded Trojans led the No. 3-seeded Bruins by two goals during the first half, but UCLA was able to fight back and eventually grab a lead in the fourth that would stand for the victory. USC wraps up the year with a 19-8 overall record.
In a whistle-filled game, each team was able to convert on three 6-on-5 opportunities apiece. Trojan freshman goalie Flora Bolonyai put up a wall in the cage as she turned away 11 Bruin shot attempts, including a 5-meter penalty shot stop early in the fourth period. Senior Joelle Bekhazi's two goals in the first frame put her as USC's top scorer in the tightly contested game, with Patricia Jancso, Nadia Dan and Dominique Sardo also adding to the Trojan scoring tally in the match.
USC seniors Bekhazi, Dronberger, Sarah Van Norman and goalie Courtney Ray closed down their USC playing careers with this year's trip to Ann Arbor. The seniors have been to the NCAA Tournament every season - including last year's 2010 NCAA Championship victory - in extending USC's stretch of NCAA appearances to eight straight with this year's run.
Bekhazi's two goals today helped lift the Trojans out of a 1-0 hole against the Bruins in the first period of play. Van Norman was instrumental in earning a pile of 6-on-5 opportunities for the Trojans, and Dronberger served up an assist on Sardo's 6-on-5 goal in the third period to get USC ahead 5-4 in the game.
The Women of Troy snagged their largest lead of the game after Bolonyai denied a Bruin 6-on-5 advantage, and USC went up on the other end. Jancso ripped in the power play strike for the Trojans, and USC was up 3-1 against its crosstown rival with just under five minutes to go in the first half. The Bruins would benefit from another 6-on-5 advantage, however, cutting it to 3-2 in the last minute of the half.
UCLA pulled even for the first time with a score out of set on its first possession of the third period, but USC had Bolonyai come up with another 6-on-5 block to prevent a go-ahead push by the Bruins later. Instead, Nadia Dan lofted in a perfect crosscage lob at the 6-minute mark, and USC was up 4-3. Again, UCLA would equalize by finishing off a power play advantage, and once more USC had the answer as Dronberger hit Sardo for a 6-on-5 skipper and a 5-4 USC edge with 3:37 to go in the third. UCLA got three opportunities to lock it up with 6-on-5 chances, and the Bruins converted on the second try with a score from Megan Burmeister. Dan interrupted UCLA's next power play chance to keep things tied up 5-5 as the fourth period came into view.
The Bruins lured Jancso into her third exclusion of the game early in the fourth to put the sophomore scoring threat on the sidelines as UCLA took a spot at the 5-meter mark for a penalty shot try. Bolonyai was ready for Priscilla Orozco's blast, however, as the USC goalie slammed away the shot for another save that kept the scoreboard at 5-5. USC set itself up with several chances to move ahead, but those 6-on-5 shots went awry while the Trojan defense held the Bruins at bay. UCLA's go-ahead goal would come on a lob shot lofted by KK Clark with 3:56 on the clock, and USC found itself in a 6-5 hole. The Trojans were unable to break through in the remaining minutes despite a couple more 6-on-5 chances earned by Dronberger and Van Norman, and USC ran out of time to pull even and force overtime as UCLA snagged the win in the season finale.
2011 NCAA Championships - Ann Arbor, Mich.
SAVES: Flora Bolonyai (USC) 11, Sami Hill (UCLA) 6.