Women's Water Polo
    No. 1 USC Set For Saturday Showdown With No. 2 Stanford

    Dominique Sardo and her fellow seniors will play their final home game on Saturday.

    April 10, 2013

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    It's a tangle of the nation's top two teams this weekend, when the No. 1 USC women's water polo team host No. 2 Stanford at 4 p.m. on Saturday (April 13) at the Trojans' home pool at the Uytengsu Aquatics Center. The Women of Troy (20-0, 4-0 MPSF) aim to remain the nation's only undefeated team and keep their edge in the MPSF standings with this clash. The Cardinal (23-1, 4-0) took their only loss of the year from the Trojans earlier this season in the UCI Invitational title match. The Trojans and the Cardinal are well versed in championship bouts against one another. In 2010 USC beat Stanford to win the 2010 NCAA Championship. Last season, it was Stanford that took the title in the 2012 national final. Before this Saturday's game, the Women of Troy will honor their five graduating seniors: Constance Hiller, Nicolina McCall, Blair Moody, Dominique Sardo and Chelsea Silvers.

    Stanford (Championship)10
    February 24, 2013
    Irvine, Calif.
    No. 2 Trojans Take Down No. 1 Stanford To Win UCI Invitational Championship
    The No. 2 USC women's water polo team packed some championship punch in a resounding 13-10 takedown of top-ranked Stanford today to win the title at the UCI Invitational. That topped off a big day for the Women of Troy, who opened up with an 11-10 win over No. 3 UCLA in today's semifinal before drumming up this evening's championship push past the Cardinal. USC stays perfect with a 12-0 overall record with the win, which was the first loss of the year for the defending NCAA champ Stanford.

    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 seventh straight week.

    The No. 2 Cardinal are 23-1 overall and 4-0 in MPSF play after beating UCLA 8-1 last week. Stanford has won 11 straight games since taking its only loss of the year to the Trojans on Feb. 24 in the UCI Invitational championship game, where USC beat the Cardinal 13-10. Melissa Seidemann is Stanford's top scorer with 55 goals, and goalie Kate Baldoni averages 7.8 saves and 4.3 goals against per game. USC is 25-26 all-time against Stanford after beating the Cardinal at this year's UCI Invitational. Last season, Stanford beat USC three times: 8-7 at the Stanford Invitational, 9-8 in overtime in MPSF play and then 6-4 in the 2012 NCAA Championship.

    USC tuned up last week with two nonconference road games, beating LMU 17-6 and UC Irvine 11-3. Against the Lions, USC blasted 13 goals in the second and third periods of play to launch far ahead of LMU. A second-period hat trick from Monica Vavic was a big spark for the Women of Troy, who would get nine players in on the scoring to help keep USC's undefeated record well intact. Against the Anteaters, USC held its host scoreless for just under 22 minutes of the last stretch of play, beating No. 7 UC Irvine 11-3. The Women of Troy broke a 3-3 tie with eight straight unanswered goals to drown out the Anteaters. Hannah Buckling blasted a hat trick to charge up the USC offense. The Anteaters would manufacture a three-goal response to close the gap to 3-3 with 5:56 on the clock in the second period of play. After UCI struck to pull even at 3-3, USC went the other way and Anni Espar found Dominque Sardo. Espar laced a perfect pass to Sardo at the post for the go-ahead goal for the Trojans. Colleen O'Donnell would plug in a nifty shot from the perimeter next, and Eike Daube launched a slick bar-in score before the close of the half to make it a 6-3 USC advantage. And while the USC defense -- anchored by goalie Flora Bolonyai and bolstered further by many USC field blocks -- continued to click, the USC offense distributed the ball among five pairs of scoring hands before the final buzzer.

    Through these first 20 games of 2013, USC is outscoring opponents 316-99 on the year. Sophomore Monica Vavic has been the undisputed scoring leader down the stretch, with 59 goals scored to date -- far outpacing her freshman season total of 39. Next in line on the scoresheets are junior Kaleigh Gilchrist with 31, junior Hannah Buckling with 25 and senior Dominique Sardo and sophomore Jayde Appel with 24 each. On the defensive end, USC has a reliable anchor in junior goalie Flora Bolonyai, who averages 7.83 saves per game and is third in the MPSF with 4.83 goals-against per game. In all, the Trojans lead the conference with 15.8 goals per game. USC is second in the MPSF defensively with 4.95 goals-against per game.

    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. Thanks in part to a four-goal outburst against ASU, Gilchrist now holds 31 goals on the year, followed by Sardo at 24.

    USC has three Trojans closing in on the 100-goal mark for their respective careers. Sophomore Monica Vavic stands at 98 to date, followed closely by junior Kaleigh Gilchrist with 93 and senior Dominique Sardo at 86. Stay tuned!

    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.

    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 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. Just last week, another USC newcomer got in the books with MPSF Newcomer of the Week honors when another Aussie import, Jayde Appel, scored two big goals for the Trojans to spark a comeback win over ASU.

    The top gun in the conference to date is USC sophomore Monica Vavic, who has scored 43 goals to average 3.07 goals per game. Her scoring prowess helped the sophomore win 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 Week on Feb. 18. Now with 59 goals to date this year, Vavic has decidedly bettered her freshman season total of 39 goals. Her 59 goals ranks her No. 9 all-time in single-season goals scored.

    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.

    The home of the Trojans is a work in progress right now, but the 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 are hosting 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!

    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. •