No. 3 Trojans Battle The Bruins Saturday
USC hosts No. 1 UCLA at 1 p.m. on Saturday at McDonald's Swim Stadium.
Feb. 29, 2012
USC WWP Weekly ReleaseTHIS WEEK
The No. 3 USC women's water polo team settles back into home waters this week to play host to crosstown rival UCLA. The Women of Troy (11-2, 1-0 MPSF) are looking for revenge against the No. 1 Bruins (12-1. 1-0) after taking a one-goal loss to UCLA last weekend at the UCI Invitational. USC will clash with UCLA in their MPSF matchup on Saturday (March 3) at 1 p.m. at McDonald's Swim Stadium.
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 are now back at the No. 3 position in this week's national rankings.
The No. 1 Bruins are 12-1 overall and 1-0 in MPSF play after winning the title at last weekend's UCI Invitational, beating USC 8-7 in the semis and then topping Stanford 5-4 in the championship game. KK Clark leads UCLA in scoring with 2.5 goals per game, and goalie Caitlin Dement averages 9.0 saves and 4.8 goals-against per game. USC is 18-42 all-time against UCLA with losses in the past four meetings, including last weekend's 8-7 loss. USC's last win over UCLA was a 9-8 victory in the semifinals of the 2011 UCI Invitational. The Bruins beat USC 7-5 in last year's MPSF match.
USC started last week by winning its sixth straight game and getting a 1-0 advantage in MPSF play with a 12-6 victory over visiting No. 6 Hawai'i. Monica Vavic kicked off a powerful week in which the freshman would lead USC with 10 goals and nine assists across the Trojans' five-game stretch by knocking in four goals against the Rainbow Wahine. Two days later, Vavic led USC with a hat trick in an 11-3 win over Long Beach State in the first game of the UCI Invitational. That afternoon, she and senior Nadia Dan punched in a pair apiece in an 8-6 win over LMU. The next day, USC's nine-game win streak came to an end when UCLA fought out of a three-goal deficit in the fourth period of the semifinal match to win the game with 14 seconds left. The 8-7 loss to the Bruins put USC in the third-place game against California, where Dominique Sardo rang up a hat trick in a 9-6 Trojan win over the Bears.
MAKING HER MPSF MARK
USC freshman Savannah Fletcher scored seven goals in USC's first two games at the Lancer Invitational and finished with a team-high eight at the two-day event as USC picked up four more wins to improve to 7-1 on the year. For her outstanding work for the Women of Troy, Fletcher was named MPSF Newcomer of the Week, making her the first USC player this season to win a weekly award from the conference. On Feb. 17 in Riverside, Fletcher went big in game one, punching in four to lead the Trojans to a 14-2 win over Pacific. She followed that up with a hat trick next against Fresno Pacific that same day, and then hit one more with a goal against Concordia on Feb. 18.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.