Women's Water Polo
    No. 3 Women of Troy Make Moves To NorCal For MPSF Wrapup

    The No. 3 USC women look to knock off No. 2 Stanford this weekend.

    April 4, 2012

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    The No. 3 USC women's water polo team hits the road for the final push of the MPSF regular season this week. The Trojans (17-3, 4-1 MPSF) have two big matches on tap as they head north for visits to No. 8 San Jose State (14-9, 2-4) and No. 2 Stanford (18-1, 4-0) in back-to-back MPSF clashes. A winning run through the Bay Area can put the Women of Troy in position for a possible first-place finish in the MPSF. The quest to stretch USC's win streak from six straight to eight begins on Friday (April 6) at 1 p.m. against the Spartans in San Jose. The big one comes Saturday (April 7) at 1 p.m. as the Trojans look for revenge against the Cardinal, who claimed a one-goal win in USC's opening weekend back in February.

    USC opened 2012 tied at No. 3 in the nation alongside UCLA, but moved up to No. 2 on Feb. 8. The Trojans are back at the No. 3 position again in the latest national rankings. San Jose State ranks No. 8, and Stanford is still locked at No. 2.

    The No. 8 Spartans are 14-9 overall and 2-4 in MPSF play after beating San Diego State 9-8 in overtime and losing to ASU 10-8 last week. SJSU has a tight group of top scorers with Dani Curran, Anna Natalizio and Amber Pezzola combining for 133 goals. Goalie Meagan Minson is averaging 8.6 saves and 8.5 goals against per game. USC is 24-0 all-time against San Jose State after beating the Spartans 14-6 in USC's 2012 season opener at the Stanford Invitational. Last year, USC beat the Spartans 13-10 in MPSF play in Los Angeles.

    The No. 2 Cardinal are 18-1 overall and 4-0 in MPSF play after beating ASU 12-8 and San Diego State 12-4 last week in MPSF matches. Kiley Neushul and Ashley Grossman are Stanford's top scorers with 42 and 37 goals, respectively. Goalie Kate Baldoni is averaging 9.7 saves and 4.5 goals-against per game. USC is 24-24 all-time against Stanford with losses in the past five meetings, including an 8-7 loss on day one of the 2012 Stanford Invitational in February. Last year, Stanford beat USC 9-8 in overtime during the MPSF regular season in Los Angeles and won 8-4 later in the NCAA semifinals in Michigan.

    USC extended its win streak out to six straight with a midweek 19-5 win over No. 19 Hartwick and a 10-7 MPSF win over No. 5 California. Against the Hawks, USC rattled the back of the net 19 times, getting 11 different scorers in on the offensive onslaught for the 19-5 win at McDonald's Swim Stadium. The Women of Troy were paced by four goals from Patricia Jancso and hat tricks from Chelsea Silvers and Kaleigh Gilchrist in the win. After an early 2-0 Trojan lead, Hartwick cut it to a 2-1 game. That prompted a tougher stand on the defensive end by the Trojans, while the USC offense also caught fire as seven different Women of Troy got in on the action during a 9-0 scoring run that spanned into the third frame to secure the win. Days later, USC claimed its sixth straight win with a 10-7 MPSF victory over visiting California. The Women of Troy fought off a second-period lockup by outscoring the Bears 6-1 in the next stretch to charge out of reach. Dominique Sardo would lead the scoring effort on the day with a hat trick for USC. Knowing the importance of the day's match in terms of MPSF standings and postseason implications, both teams were charged up for the contest. Cal had an answer for each of USC's opening scores, following Sardo's score on a 6-on-5 with an equalizer for a 1-1 tie, and then coming back from a go-ahead lob by Nicolina McCall at the close of the first with a 5-meter penalty finish that snarled the score at 2-2 with 6:04 on the clock in the second. USC's offensive balance and defensive strength kicked into gear from there, however. Goalie Flora Bolonyai put a stop to five Cal shots in the second frame -- tallying half of her final 10 saves in that period -- while the Trojans blasted in four slick scores around another Bear strike to take USC ahead 6-3 at the half before two more early goals from USC put Cal in an 8-3 hole out of which it could not climb.

    USC is currently third in the MPSF in offense and defense, outscoring opponents 235-105 to average 11.75 goals scored and 5.25 goals-against per game. Sophomore Kaleigh Gilchrist is USC's top scorer with 34 goals to date, followed closely by freshman Monica Vavic with 27 goals. Not far behind her is junior Patricia Jancso at 23 and senior Nadia Dan with 21. Dan recently hit her 100th career goal on March 22 vs. Long Beach State and now ranks No. 20 all-time with 103. Jancso got to 100 on Feb. 23 in USC's win over Hawai'i, and now holds 113 career goals as a Trojan.

    Sophomore Kaleigh Gilchrist secured USC with back-to-back MPSF Player of the Week honors, following fellow sophomore Flora Bolonyai's selection last week by emerging as the MPSF's best of the week with her Player of the Week pick on April 2. Gilchrist scored her second and third straight multiple-goal games starting with a hat trick vs. Hartwick before plugging in two more goals in USC's MPSF win over No. 5 California. Gilchrist was dominant at 2-meters in both games as she helped USC extend its win streak to six games, improving to 17-3 overall and taking a 4-1 mark in MPSF action. Gilchrist's recent scoring explosion has her leading USC with 34 goals to date after scoring 10 in a week's span of three games.

    Sophomore goalie Flora Bolonyai hauled in her first career honor as MPSF Player of the Week on March 26 after an outstanding week of action in the cage for the Women of Troy. She is the first Trojan to win the award this season. A two-time MPSF Newcomer of the Week as a freshman, Bolonyai matched her career high of 13 saves in an important MPSF road win over No. 4 ASU. The sophomore standout delivered 11 saves in the second half of play in Tempe, including six in the fourth period to go with a shutout effort in that frame as No. 3 USC beat the host Sun Devils 9-7. In USC's three games during the week, Bolonyai averaged 9.7 saves per game, tallying 10 in a 7-3 win over Long Beach State before the career-high 13 saves at ASU. And in a 10-6 USC win over No. 7 LMU, Bolonyai had six saves including one stop against a 5-meter penalty shot by the Lions.

    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.

    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.

    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 in January 2012 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 2012 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.