No. 2 USC Comes Home Again, Host Two Teams This Weekend
March 4, 2009
THIS WEEK: USC jumps back into home waters this week for a three-game stretch at McDonald's Swim Stadium. First up for the No. 2 Trojans (11-1) is No. 16 Long Beach State, which comes to Troy for a 6 p.m. game on Friday (March 6). USC will then turn to host No. 8 San Jose State at 12 p.m. on Saturday (March 7) in an MPSF clash that also rounds out this week's home action.
IN THE RANKINGS: After taking its first loss of the year after an 11-0 start, USC now sits at No. 2 in the nation for the second week. Long Beach State ranks No. 16 in the latest national poll, and San Jose State is No. 8.
WEEKEND OF FIRSTS: USC rolled out to a 10-0 start to the 2009 season with a pair of decisive wins to open the UC Irvine Invitational and then a landmark victory over crosstown rival and four-time defending NCAA champion UCLA. In the semifinals of the competitive tourney, the Trojans tacked up their first win over the Bruins in 10 straight games. Not since 2006 had USC topped UCLA, making Feb. 22's 8-7 win over the Bruins a significant lift for the Women of Troy. USC then moved into the championship match against Stanford and stumbled out to a slow start. The Trojans fell behind 7-2 before powering back to force overtime and then sudden-death, in which the Cardinal managed the winning strike to take the title 12-11 and hand USC its first loss of 2009.
STANFORD INVITE CHAMPS: USC captured a key tournament title last weekend in a championship run at the Stanford Invitational. In the second day of action, the Women of Troy pinned up a 13-5 win over No. 18 Indiana to close out group play and earn a place in the final. There, USC rolled past No. 4 Hawai'i with an 11-3 win that left the Trojans as the tournament champs with an undefeated 5-0 start to the 2009 season. The top-ranked Women of Troy used momentum from Saturday's 19-9 win over No. 8 Arizona State and a crucial 12-10 overtime victory over host No. 2 Stanford to plow through their Sunday competition at the Avery Aquatic Center. USC last won the Stanford Invitational in 2006.
STEIN'S TIME TO SHINE: Michelle Stein was USC's leading scorer in four of its first five games to open the year and quickly picked up her third career MPSF Player of the Week honors for her efforts. After starting the season with a hat trick in the Trojans' opener against Hartwick, Stein scored 11 goals in four games at the Stanford Invitational to help push USC to the tournament championship and a 5-0 overall record to start the year. In the crucial Saturday matchup between the No. 1 Trojans and No. 2 Stanford, Stein scored four goals, including two late-game goals to force overtime and one during overtime to help USC get to a 12-10 win. In the championship game against Hawai'i, Stein had another multiple-goal game with three to lead USC in scoring once again. Since then, Stein has continued to shine. She now ranks No. 9 all-time at USC with 130 career goals. With 35 goals so far this season, Stein leads USC and the MPSF in scoring with 2.92 gpg. She has scored in every game for the Trojans, with 10 of those multiple-goal outings.
TUMUA'S TAKEOVER: In just her second full game back to action after suffering early-season injuries, junior goalie Tumua Anae had 11 saves in USC's MPSF opener and picked up her second career selection as the MPSF Player of the Week. En route to a 14-4 road win at No. 7 California, Anae helped secure a second-half shutout of the Bears with a save against a Cal 5-meter penalty shot during the third period. On the way to her 11-save finish, Anae allowed zero goals in the second half after allowing just four through in the first half of play. The Bears had entered the game with a 15-2 record and was averaging 13 goals per game until coming up against Anae and the Trojans in Berkeley over the weekend.
ATTACKING BACK: For 2009, USC women's water polo returns two All-Americans with 95 goals and 321 saves between them -- a not-so-subtle hint at the balance stabilizing the Trojan waters this year -- as well as a slew of talent from last year's NCAA finalist squad. Jordan Anae and All-American Michelle Stein are USC's two seniors, bringing leadership and three trips to the NCAA Tournament to the pool for their final year at Troy. Several more returning Women of Troy bring in summer experience state-side, as Stein and sophomore Kristen Dronberger were members of the U.S. National B Team and Tumua Anae earned honors as the Top 40 Festival Most Valuable Goalie. Meanwhile, junior Forel Davies has been deepening her defensive skills and all-around game with the U.S. Junior National Team. Davies, Alexandra Kiss and Kally Lucas are all back in the waters of Troy as juniors with a wealth of offensive firepower, along with sophomore hole set Sarah Van Norman. In whole, USC returns seven of its top-10 scorers from last year.
BEIJING'S BEST: Back in the waters of Troy after a year off spent training and traveling the world with Team USA is now-junior Kami Craig. The tremendous talent at two-meters flexed her muscles in Beijing during the summer and came home with a silver medal from the 2008 Olympic Games. Her experience abroad is edged only by three other international imports. Ilse van der Meijden hails from the Netherlands and was the goalie for the Dutch squad in Beijing, anchoring a gold-medal finish for the Netherlands to give the Trojans two Olympic medalists in the water this season.
CAGE FIGHTERS: All-American junior goalie Tumua Anae and Olympic gold-medalist Ilse van der Meijden provide an unheard-of tagteam of talent in the cage, forming a powerful backbone for the defense that Vavic has now established as a trademark of his Trojan teams. Together, the pair has USC leading the conference in defense with just 5.58 goals-against per game and have combined to help USC average 10.5 saves per game.
BEHIND THE ARC: The 2009 Trojan juniors and seniors boast plenty of power sprinkled around the perimeter with returning top scorer Michelle Stein. Canadian National Teamers Joelle Bekhazi and Rosanna Tomiuk both can put the ball away - something that senior Jordan Anae and juniors Forel Davies, Alexandra Kiss, Kally Lucas have been doing as sneaky and swift scorers for several seasons already at Troy.
THE NEW CLASS: Up-and-coming sophomores and freshmen are proving a big part of the gameplan for USC. Sophomores Sarah Van Norman and Kristen Dronberger provided a combined 35 goals as freshmen and both are back stronger and with even more savvy. What's more, USC's 2009 first-year field players Nadia Dan and Kara-Leigh Huse are also in line for plenty of minutes as impact freshmen out of the gates. Dan and Huse are just part of the fresh young depth charge joining the USC roster for 2009. Drivers Stephanie Lavayen and Shauna Letvin and goalie Courtney Ray all return to the roster and will factor into the mix.
LAST SEASON: In 2008, USC finished with a 21-8 overall record with trips to the MPSF and NCAA finals for second-place finishes at the two postseason pinnacles.
PUTTING THE "USC" IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: At the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, five Women of Troy helped make history for the United States women's water polo team. A silver-medal finish in Beijing makes Team USA the only women's water polo team to medal in three consecutive Games, a feat that likely would not have been accomplished without the efforts of five first-time Olympians hailing from USC. USC junior Kami Craig and Trojan grads Patty Cardenas, Brittany Hayes, Moriah Van Norman and Lauren Wenger all scored for Team USA during the run to the Olympic final. All told, the Women of Troy accumulated 20 goals in Beijing. In addition to Hayes' eight, Craig notched six, van Norman registered three, Cardenas had two and Wenger -- who reinjured her hand during the semifinals -- scored one to round out the Trojans' offensive onslaught for the silver medalists. Team USA also has former Trojan Bernice Orwig -- a 2000 silver medalist with the United States -- on staff as an assistant coach.