Women's Water Polo
    No. 1 USC Holds Home Opener Saturday Vs. No. 3 ASU
    Colleen O'Donnell and the Trojans are aiming to shut down an upset-minded ASU team on Saturday.
    Colleen O'Donnell and the Trojans are aiming to shut down an upset-minded ASU team on Saturday.

    March 6, 2013

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    THIS WEEK
    The No. 1 USC women's water polo team has been busy gathering wins on the road in the first month of 2013 action. Now, the undefeated Women of Troy (13-0, 1-0 MPSF) are back in Los Angeles to host their first game of the year at their home pool. The Uytengsu Aquatics Center is under construction around the Trojans' home pool, but there's still plenty of space to host games. This weekend's opener brings No. 3 Arizona State (12-3, 1-0) to town for a 1 p.m. game on Saturday (March 9) to take on the top-ranked Trojans.

    THE LAST MEETING
    USC13
    Arizona State (Championship)6
    February 10, 2013
    San Diego, Calif.
    No. 2 Trojans Take Triton Invitational Title
    The No. 2 USC women's water polo team got out of the gates as champions with a 4-0 start to 2013 play and a successful run to the UCSD Triton Invitational title. The Women of Troy topped San Diego State12-3 in the semifinals today, then steered toward victory again in a 13-6 championship win over Arizona State this evening in San Diego.

    USC IN THE RANKINGS
    USC opened 2013 ranked No. 2 in the nation, and the Women of Troy took over the top spot after beating Stanford in the UCI Invitational championship. The takeover marked the first time USC had been ranked No. 1 in the nation since the conclusion of the 2010 season. The Trojans stole the top spot away from Stanford, which had been at No. 1 for almost a year. Still undefeated on the year, USC remains at No. 1 for the second straight week.

    SCOUTING ASU
    The No. 3 Sun Devils are 12-3 overall and 1-0 in MPSF play after registering their first win in program history over UCLA last week in a 7-6 upset victory for ASU. Alicia Brightwell is ASU's top scorer with 31 goals (2.2 gpg) and goalie E.B. Keeve averages 12.1 saves and 7.1 goals-against per game. USC is 16-1 all-time against the Sun Devils after a 9-7 win last season in Tempe.

    LAST WEEK
    In last week's MPSF opener in Berkeley, USC opened up what had been a tight game with a five-goal blitz in the third period to build a head of steam that would put No. 5 host Cal in a six-goal hole and keep the Bears out of reach while USC pushed out to a 10-5 win. Cal broke up what was almost a fully scoreless first frame with a 6-on-5 strike in the final minute. USC would equalize and snap its dry spell on a power play blast from Jayde Appel early in the second, and Anni Espar clocked in with the go-ahead score for the Trojans with 3:10 to go in the half. The Bears pulled back even a minute later and that 2-2 lockup held up to halftime. USC got to the back of the net first to open the second half of action on a 6-on-5 rocket from Monica Vavic to take a 3-2 lead for the Trojans. Nicolina McCall gave USC a 4-2 advantage a minute later with an even strike, but Cal followed with a finish on another Bear power play to make it 4-3 USC with 4:30 on the clock. USC's Dominique Sardo would solve things next, breaking free for a nifty lob that bumped USC back ahead by two, up 5-3 at 3:36. Vavic's second of the day came next and Kaleigh Gilchrist also got in on the scoring action, and the Trojans were enjoying a four-goal lead up 7-3 with 1:35 to go in the third. Espar delivered a score out of the gates to keep USC's scoring streak going with a fourth straight goal to put the Bears behind 8-3. Cal stopped the run with a lob next, beating the shot clock to make it 8-4. Vavic buried a 5-meter penalty soon after to take more wind out of Cal's sails and complete her hat trick. USC would get up by six before Cal got another goal to go to make it 10-5 Trojans with 2:55 remaining, and that would hold for the solid USC road victory.

    TAKING OVER THE TOP
    USC turned heads in taking a commanding run to the UCI Invitational championship. After well-balanced wins over Pacific and San Diego State on the first day of action, the Trojans edged out rival UCLA 11-10 in the semifinals to earn their place in the title match. Up against top-ranked Stanford in the final, USC pounded out a 13-10 upset win over the Cardinal to capture the championship and set in motion the Trojans' takeover of the No. 1 ranking in the nation. USC opened the tourney with 10 different scorers in on the action in both Trojan victories. The well-balanced Trojan attack and stingy USC defense paired up well for a 14-2 win over Pacific and then a 17-5 victory over San Diego State to push USC through to the next day's semifinal round. Up against the Bruins in the semis, USC got the last word in a see-saw battle with No. 3 UCLA. Kaleigh Gilchrist blasted one through with 2 seconds left, and USC held on for the 11-10 victory that put the Trojans into a championship bout with top-ranked Stanford. USC freshman Anni Espar recorded her first hat trick as a Trojan to lead USC's scoring attack against UCLA. Her second of the day got USC a tight 8-7 lead near the close of the third frame, but the game would stay neck-and-neck. The Bruins were awarded a 5-meter penalty shot to open the fourth, converting for the 8-8 tie. Espar again got USC the go-ahead with her third strike making it 9-8. Again, UCLA would draw even, answering that Espar goal and then a Monica Vavic score on a 6-on-5. Locked up 10-10, USC's Gilchrist plugged in what would stand as the winner. Her bullet with 2 ticks to go proved the difference, and the Women of Troy were through to the title match. USC packed some championship punch in a resounding 13-10 takedown of top-ranked Stanford. USC and Stanford would stand locked at 8-8 before the Trojans rammed home three straight scores on goals from Kelly Mendoza, Hannah Buckling and Monica Vavic to go up 11-8. The Cardinal trimmed the USC lead down to one, but some rock-hard USC defense anchored by a stingy USC goalie Flora Bolonyai in the cage paired with goals from Anni Espar and Vavic to secure the championship win for the Trojans. Espar would finish with a game-high four goals for the Trojans, with Vavic and Buckling adding a hat trick apiece to charge up the USC offense for the win. Bolonyai also hauled in nine saves in the win, including a 5-meter penalty stop in the fourth period of play to bring home victory for USC.

    NEWCOMERS MAKE THEIR MPSF MARKS
    Following a powerful run to the UCI Invitational championship, undefeated USC registered a sweep of this week's MPSF honors. USC freshman Anni Espar picked up her first award as the MPSF Player of the Week, and junior newcomer Hannah Buckling grabbed MPSF Newcomer of the Week honors. Making her Trojan debut this past weekend at the UCI Invitational, Espar scored seven goals on the second day of competition to lead the Trojans to the tournament crown. Espar blasted three goals in a tight 11-10 win over No. 3 UCLA in the semifinals. In the title match, Espar went even bigger with a game-high four goals to help lift USC to a 13-10 upset of top-ranked Stanford. With three goals scored on the first day of action, Espar finished her first collegiate tournament as a Trojan with 10 goals. Meanwhile, Buckling's second hat trick as a Trojan came in that big USC victory over Stanford in the title match. Buckling scored three straight goals to dig USC out of a 7-5 hole and give the Trojans an 8-7 lead early in the second half. Her hat trick in the title match followed up her one goal in USC's tight semifinal win over No. 3 UCLA. In all, Buckling scored five goals during the tournament, including her four goals on the crucial second day of competition.

    MONICA GOES BACK-TO-BACK
    The top gun in the conference to date is USC sophomore Monica Vavic, who has scored 38 goals to average 3.2 goals per game. Her scoring prowess has helped the sophomore back-to-back honors as MPSF Player of the Week, but it's been more than goals that has locked Vavic on the honor roll. Her first career weekly honor came on Feb. 11 after she emerged as USC's top scorer with 14 goals -- including a four-goal outburst in the Trojans' tournament championship win over No. 5 Arizona State -- at the Triton Invitational. Vavic had eight goals on day one to get USC into the semifinals, adding another two there before punching in four in the title match. The sophomore also delivered a team-high eight assists in the tourney. The following week, Vavic opened up the Lancer Invitational with a five-goal game in a 9-1 USC win over #11 Long Beach State. Vavic would keep up her scoring momentum with a hat trick against Azusa Pacific and four goals each in wins over host Cal Baptist and Concordia. She finished the Invite as USC's leader with 16 goals, along with seven assists and four ejections drawn to haul in repeat honors as MPSF Player of the Wek on Feb. 18. Now with 41 goals to date this year, Vavic has already bettered her freshman season total of 39 goals.

    CAPTAINS CORNER
    USC's captains this year are senior Dominique Sardo and junior Kaleigh Gilchrist, who each carried 62 career goals into this 2013 season. All-Americans both, the two Trojan veterans are lined up to lead the Women of Troy by word and deed this season. What's more, the pair is still matched up in the scoring columns with 17 goals apiece in 2013 to date.

    WORLD WARRIORS
    USC has an influx of incredible international talent this season. Freshly capped up for their first seasons as Trojans are Australian imports Jayde Appel and Hannah Buckling, along with Olympic gold medalist Anni Espar of Spain. Espar was named to the 2012 Olympic All-Star Team and also selected the European Women's Water Polo Player of the Year. Appel has been a member of the Australian Junior National Team, and Buckling is a member of the Australian Senior National Team. Even more international experience already lives large on the Trojan roster. Olympian Flora Bolonyai helped Hungary to a fourth-place finish in London, and the junior now returns to Troy to guard the cage as one of USC's most experienced and decorated goalies in history. A veteran crew of U.S. Junior National Team talent also shines bright for the Trojans, with sophomore Eike Daube a current member of the U.S junior team, and 2011 Junior World Championship teammates for the USA Kelly Mendoza, Colleen O'Donnell, Madeline Rosenthal, Dominique Sardo. Mendoza is another new addition to the Trojan roster for 2013, coming to Troy as a junior transfer from Cal. Sophomore Monica Vavic, too, also has spent time in international waters playing for the U.S. youth and junior teams.

    PARDON OUR DUST
    The home of the Trojans is a work in progress right now, but pool is still intact. USC has begun construction of the Uytengsu Aquatics Center, which will house the Trojan aquatics programs as well as feature a beautiful state-of-the-art facility that has already been tabbed as the site of the 2014 NCAA Women's Water Polo Championships. The Women of Troy will host three games at their home pool this season, so don't be tricked by the construction surrounding the pool... USC aquatics is still in full swing on campus!

    CARDINAL & GOLD PAIRS WELL WITH RED, WHITE & BLUE
    USC's decorated and championship-savvy water polo head coach, Jovan Vavic, added another team to his charge in being named interim head coach of the USA Men's Senior National Team, USA Water Polo's Chief Executive Officer Chris Ramsey announced In November 2012. The 11-time National Coach of the Year at the helm of both the USC men's and women's programs, Vavic stepped into the international realm in an effort to help Team USA qualify for the 2013 FINA World Championships. In his debut as interim head coach for Team USA Vavic, along with Trojan head assistant coach Marko Pintaric, successfully guided Team USA to qualification for the upcoming FINA World Championships. Leading a fairly young U.S. squad -- which included current Trojan Nikola Vavic and former Trojan Tommy Corcoran -- coach Vavic helped the United States to reach the final of the UANA World Aquatic Championship Qualification Tournament in order to secure a spot at Worlds. Vavic and Pintaric both have returned to USC to resume duties leading the USC women as they begin their 2013 season. Both coaches have concluded their time with USA Water Polo and remain on the USC coaching staff for the USC men and women.

    2012 RECAP
    The 2012 Women of Troy fought back to the NCAA final for the fourth time in the past five seasons. Seeded third in the tourney, USC beat rival UCLA 12-10 in the 2012 NCAA semifinals to force a rematch of the 2010 national championship game with a bout against top-seeded Stanford. The Cardinal won the title with 6-4 victory, putting the Trojans at 23-6 overall on the year as USC finished ranked No. 2 in the nation. The Trojans finished third in the MPSF Tournament. Led by freshman first-team selection Monica Vavic, the USC landed six All-Americans for the 2012 season, including a pair of newly crowned two-time All-Americans in second-team selection Flora Bolonyai and honorable mention recipient Nadia Dan. The rest of the group grabbed their first career honors, with sophomore Kaleigh Gilchrist on the second team, and sophomore Colleen O'Donnell and junior Dominique Sardo earning honorable mention. Gilchrist was the Trojans' top scorer in 2012 with 47 goals, followed by Vavic with 39. Bolonyai averaged 8.6 saves per game and 5.3 goals-against per game on the year. In all, the USC offense averaged 11.1 goals per game, while the defense allowed 5.2 goals-against per game. USC outscored opponents 321-151 in 2012. •