USC WINS NCAA CHAMPIONSHIP!!
May 16, 2010
SAN DIEGO, CALIF. -- The USC women's water polo team captured a dramatic and emotional win today as the Women of Troy emerged with their third national championship in beating top-seeded Stanford 10-9 in the 2010 NCAA Championship game at Aztec Aquaplex in San Diego, Calif. The Trojans got ahead by four goals in the fourth quarter before Stanford closed in to within one in the final minute. But USC's resolve reigned supreme as the No. 2 seeded Trojans staved off the Cardinal's push and held on to stake their claim on the 2010 NCAA title. USC finishes the year with a 25-3 overall record. USC's last NCAA title came in 2004, and this year marked the Trojans' seventh consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance.
USC finishes the year with a 25-3 overall record. USC's last NCAA title came in 2004, and this year marked the Trojans' seventh consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance. For USC head coach Jovan Vavic, it is his eighth national championship (five men's and three women's) and it is the third time that he has claimed men's and women's national titles back-to-back. USC won the 1998 men's NCAA championship followed by the women's 1999 national championship, the 2003 men's and 2004 women's NCAA crowns, and now has followed the USC men's 2008 and 2009 titles with this 2010 women's NCAA championship. Overall, USC's 2010 NCAA women's water polo championship win gives the university 112 national team titles.
USC's balanced scoring and focused defense proved to be championship-caliber today. Seven different Trojans scored in the win, while the defense forced a pile of Stanford turnovers and shut down the Cardinal when it mattered most. Equally important was USC's ability to shrug off four 5-meter penalty shots earned and converted by the Cardinal. And after USC's previous five trips to the NCAA Tournament had resulted in three runner-up and two third-place finishes, this 2010 group of Trojans made certain to close out this season on top. USC's five seniors will go out as long-awaited national champions, thanks to an all-around effort that saw seniors Kami Craig, Kally Lucas and Alexandra Kiss each score in the title match, while fellow senior Forel Davies was perfect on opening sprints and served up a key assist in the fourth period, and senior goalie Tumua Anae notched eight saves in a determined stand in the cage.
In all, USC's scoring tally included two goals apiece for Kristen Dronberger, Patricia Jancso and Kally Lucas, along with scores from Joelle Bekhazi, Dominique Sardo, Alexandra Kiss and Kami Craig. Craig was named the NCAA Tournament MVP, with teammates Anae, Davies and Dronberger also named to the NCAA All-Tournament First Team.
The game opened up with Stanford gaining the early advantage as the Cardinal earned its first of what would become four 5-meter penalty shots in the game. Kelly Eaton converted all four, but it was only the first that would give Stanford a lead in the game. Eaton struck at the 7:06 mark of the first period, but USC steals plagued the Cardinal from there, while the Trojans converted on its first 6-on-5 opportunity with a Kristen Dronberger blast and later took the lead with a nearside rocket from Patricia Jancso. USC held that 2-1 lead through the end of the first, and would balloon its lead to 4-1 with the first two goals of the second period.
Joelle Bekhazi plugged in a score just after the teams pulled even on a 6-on-5 early in the second, and after a Dronberger steal was followed by a stop by Anae on a Stanford 6-on-5, Dominique Sardo went crosscage bar-in on a USC power play to make it a four-goal run for the Trojans and a 4-1 lead. Stanford stopped the run with its first 6-on-5 score to make it 4-2 midway through the second, but barely 30 seconds later the Trojans delivered again. USC worked the ball around on another 6-on-5, as Bekhazi hit Dronberger and she passed off to Lucas for a 5-2 USC lead. Another Stanford 5-meter pushed it to 5-3, although once again the Trojans regrouped and answered right back. The response came on another searing score from Jancso, and USC was up 6-3. Anae's 5-on-6 save at the close of the half secured that advantage for the Trojans as the teams took a break for halftime.
Stanford made somewhat of a push to open the second half of action, scoring its first natural goal of the game with a lob off an early counterattack. Once again, Stanford's Eaton went to the 5-meter mark for another penalty shot, and the Cardinal were within a goal with USC holding a 6-5 lead at 5:29. Anae came up big with a tough save on a close-range Stanford strike later, and the Trojans would also put a stop to a Stanford 6-on-5 opportunity to preserve that slim lead. Again the Cardinal misfired on a power play chance, and USC went back the other way to see Alexandra Kiss deliver a slick offspeed score for a 7-5 boost to USC's lead with 32 seconds left in the frame.
The fourth period was replete with drama as the whistle continued to blow ejections at both ends and momentum swung dramatically. USC padded its lead to 8-5 when Davies hit Dronberger for a nice strike out of 2-meters on USC's first possession of the frame. Stanford's penalty-a-period trend continued, with Eaton squeezing through her fourth 5-meter penalty shot of the game for the Cardinal to make it 8-6. Craig earned a power play for the Trojans next, however, and ended up finishing it off herself as the ball worked through Bekhazi and Kiss to get to Craig's hands for a 9-6 USC lead with 6:21 on the clock. Craig would be ejected soon after, and then a double ejection was whistled to remove Jancso and a Stanford player simultaneously. It was Jancso's third kickout of the game, taking out one of USC's top guns from its arsenal for the remainder of the match. Undeterred, Anae nabbed a takeaway soon after, and Lucas drilled a crosscage bar-in score that launched USC to its largest lead of the game, up 10-6 with 4:28 remaining. The daunting lead didn't shake off Stanford, however, as the Cardinal got another natural goal from Kim Krueger to make it 10-7. Back-to-back Stanford 6-on-5s took both Craig and Bekhazi out of the game with their third ejections each, and the Cardinal converted both. With 1:25 to go, Stanford made it 10-8, and USC worked to slow down the pace of the game in hopes of preserving the lead and avoiding a dangerous Cardinal counterattack. Instead, the Trojans were whistled for delay of game, turning the ball back into Stanford hands. That's where Bekhazi was ejected as the Cardinal set up for another 6-on-5, converting that one as well with a score from Annika Dries to cut the Trojan lead to 10-9 with 45 seconds remaining. USC moved the ball around and ate up the next 35 seconds of its shot clock, giving Stanford the ball with 10 ticks to go. The Cardinal's shot attempt was wide, and Anae got to the ball and held on to wind things down on a wild and exciting NCAA Championship victory for the Women of Troy.
Stay tuned to usctrojans.com for more NCAA champion women's water polo video highlights this week!
2010 NCAA CHAMPIONSHIP
SAVES: Tumua Anae (USC) 8, Amber Oland (STAN) 7.