Women's Water Polo
    USC Women Start Busy Week From Home
    Dominique Sardo and the Trojans are home this Thursday to take on Hawai'i.
    Dominique Sardo and the Trojans are home this Thursday to take on Hawai'i.

    Feb. 22, 2012

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    THIS WEEK
    The No. 2 USC women's water polo team gets to compete in friendly waters this week before heading south to the UCI Invitational. The Women of Troy (7-1) have their home opener set for Thursday (Feb. 23) at 5 p.m. as USC takes on No. 6 Hawai'i (2-3) in an MPSF clash at McDonald's Swim Stadium. Then it's down to Irvine for competition at the annual UCI Invitational, where the Trojans are bracketed with No. 7 host UC Irvine, No. 10 LMU and No. 20 Long Beach State/No. 17 Cal State Northridge. USC opens up against No. 20 Long Beach State at 9 a.m. on Saturday (Feb. 25) and will face either the Anteaters or the Lions later in the day. The goal is to get through day one with two wins in order to be in the Sunday (Feb. 26) semifinals at 11:45 a.m. The championship match is set for 5:15 p.m., preceded by a 4 p.m. third-place game.

    IN THE RANKINGS
    USC opened 2012 tied at No. 3 in the nation alongside UCLA, but moved up to No. 2 on Feb. 8. The Trojans remain at No. 2 once again in this week's national rankings.

    SCOUTING HAWAII
    The Rainbow Wahine are 2-3 overall after finishing fifth at the Stanford Invitational in their most recent action. Hawai'i lost 6-5 to UCLA, beat Michigan 7-5 and lost to Cal 8-4 before beating San Jose State 11-7 in the fifth-place game. Emily Scott is the team's top scorer with eight goals in five games to date. Goalie Serena Reid is averaing 8.2 saves and 7.0 goals-against per game. USC is 33-3 all-time against Hawai'i with an 11-game win streak that includes three wins last season with a 5-4 overtime win in the team's 2011 MPSF clash.

    UCI INVITATIONAL TOURNAMENT CENTRAL

    SCOUTING THE FIELD
    The 16-team tournament includes all top-20 teams this year. USC's groupmates are No. 20 Long Beach State, No. 10 Loyola Marymount and No. 7 host UC Irvine. The top seed is No. 1 Stanford, followed by the No. 2 Trojans, No. 3 UCLA and No. 4 California as the high seeds in the tourney. The rest of the field outside USC's group comprises No. 5 Arizona State, No. 6 Hawai'i, No. 8 San Jose State, No. 9 San Dieo State, No. 12 Michigan, No. 13 UC Davis, No. 15 UC Santa Barbara, No. 17 Cal State Northridge and No. 19 UC San Diego.

    THIS TIME LAST YEAR
    USC finished second at the 2011 UCI Invitational, falling to Stanford 9-6 in the championship game. The Trojans were 6-1 overall, the No. 2 seed and the defending champion at the tourney last year, and opened up with a 14-5 win over UC San Diego and an 11-3 win over San Diego State to reach the semifinals. There, the Trojans edged out UCLA 9-8 to move into the final before falling to the Cardlinal.

    LAST WEEK
    USC ran its win streak out to five straight with four powerful wins at the Lancer Invitational last week. Led by eight goals apiece from senior Kara-Leigh Huse, sophomore Kaleigh Gilchrist and freshman Savannah Fletcher in the invite, the Women of Troy outscored opponents 71-12. USC opened with a 14-2 win over Pacific before topping Fresno Pacific 27-1. Against host Cal Baptist the next day, USC grabbed a 12-3 win and then rounded out the action with an 18-6 win over Concordia. USC goalies Flora Bolonyai and Morgan Vickers traded duties in goal, with Bolonyai pulling in nine saves vs. Pacific and five against Cal Baptist. Vickers had five against Fresno Pacific and six vs. Concordia. With their respective eight-goal outings, Gilchrist and Fletcher each made serious statements in their young Trojan careers. Just eight games into 2012, Gilchrist now holds a team-high 15 goals to matchthe overall scoring total she posted last year as a freshman. Fletcher, meanwhile, secured herself as the MPSF Newcomer of the Week with her eight-goal effort, which included a four-goal game vs. Pacific.

    BACK IN ACTION
    USC returns 65 percent of its scoring from last year, including two of its top-three scorers from 2011 in junior Patricia Jancso and senior Nadia Dan, who combined for 83 goals last season. Dan and Jancso both earned All-American honors in 2011 along with sophomore goalie Flora Bolonyai, who anchored the Trojans in every game to the tune of 7.9 saves per game and 6.7 goals-against per game. Along with Bolonyai back in the cage, USC also has 13 players back in the water who tallied at least one goal for the Women of Troy in 2011.

    CHAMPIONSHIP BASE
    USC is just one season removed from the 2010 national championship year, which eight current players experienced. Seniors Nadia Dan and Kara-Leigh Huse were sophomores in that campaign, and the rest are now juniors, giving Vavic a powerful base of knowledge to tap into as he constructs a a defensive-minded squad to get the Trojans back on top. USC's top scorer in 2011, Patricia Jancso and fellow junior Dominique Sardo were impact players as freshmen during that 2010 championship run. Constance Hiller, Nicolina McCall, Blair Moody and Chelsea Silvers also got plenty of pool time as freshmen that year and even more last season as sophomores. Now, that pack of upperclassmen are charged with putting that know-how and skill to good use this year.

    NEW CREW
    USC's class of newcomers is a powerful group. Jovan Vavic has combined the strength of Eike Daube at two-meters and Monica Vavic as an insightful distributor with scoring ability with the quickness of transfer Olivia Cummins and freshman drivers Michelle Caron and Savannah Fletcher, to set up the Trojans for a youth movement toward success.

    SOPHOMORE STRENGTH
    Versatility will be an important counter punch for the Trojans, who can now follow up the more experienced defensive system on one end with a blend of offensive strategies going the opposite direction. After all, Vavic also knows he can rely on the sophomore savvy of Kaleigh Gilchrist, Colleen O'Donnell and Madeline Rosenthal, who combined for 35 goals as freshmen. O'Donnell and Rosenthal got extra experience as well as members of the U.S. Junior National Team, along with junior Dominique Sardo, in the fall at the FINA Junior World Championships. Sophomore Jennifer Stiefel also was there, playing for Germany, as well as fellow sophomore Flora Bolonyai, who won silver with Team Hungary.

    BRONZE FOR BOLONYAI
    Sophomore goalie Flora Bolonyai brings back some hardware from overseas as she now jumps into collegiate waters with her Women of Troy. As the linchpin of the Hungarian National Team's defense, Bolonyai helped her team to a bronze medal at the European Championships last week in the Netherlands. In doing so, Hungary moves on to fight for a spot in the London Olympic Games with a spot at April's Olympic Qualification Tournament. Bolonyai started her decorated debut with Hungary's Senior National Team earlier in the year as she picked up honors as the Best Goalie of the Tournament at the Thetis Cup before moving into this latest major competition with Hungary at the European Championships.

    2011 RECAP
    After graduating five All-Americans from its 2010 NCAA CHampionship team, the 2011 Trojans finished 19-8 overall and 4-3 in MPSF play with a fourth-place finish at the NCAA Tournament. The Women of Troy extended their streak of NCAA appearances to eight straight with 2011's trip to the tourney. Five Trojans earned All-American honors in 2011 as well, with seniors Joelle Bekhazi and Kristen Dronberger pocketing their third consecutive All-American awards. The decorated duo was joined by three other teammates on the All-American list as well -- Flora Bolonyai, Nadia Dan and Patricia Jancso. Jancso, Bekhazi, Dan and Dronberger were USC's top four scorers, respectively, in 2011. Bolonyai was USC's wall in the cage, earning herself All-America honors in her first season as a Trojan. USC outscored opponents 280-188 in 2011, averaging 10.3 goals per game offensively and 7.0 goals against per game defensively.