Women's Water Polo
    USC Scores No. 2 Seed For 2013 MPSF Championships
    The Trojans splash down in Berkeley this week for MPSF Championship play.
    The Trojans splash down in Berkeley this week for MPSF Championship play.

    April 24, 2013

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    THIS WEEK
    The No. 2 USC women's water polo team is looking to win its third MPSF title this week at the 2013 MPSF Championships, held this season in Berkeley, Calif., from April 26-28. The Trojans secured the No. 2 seed into the tourney with a 5-1 mark in conference play. Now, the 21-1 Women of Troy open the conference competition with a first-round matchup against No. 7 seed CSU Bakersfield (12-22) at 11 a.m. on Friday (April 26). A win there would put USC up against the winner of the Arizona State-San Jose State match in a Saturday (April 27) semifinal at 12:45 p.m. On Sunday (April 28), the MPSF championship game is set for 2:30 p.m., preceded by the third-place game at 12:45 p.m. All the action will be held at California's Spieker Aquatics Complex. USC last won the MPSF Championship in 2009. The last time USC was the No. 2 seed in the MPSF tournament was in 2010 when the Trojans went on to win the 2010 NCAA Championship.

    THE LAST MEETING
    USC19
    CSU Bakersfield6
    March 30, 2013
    Bakersfield, Calif.
    No. 1 USC Tacks Up Two More Wins In Road Routs
    The No. 1 USC women's water polo team made a worthwhile trip to Bakersfield today, rolling up powerful wins in beating its host Roadrunners 19-6 and then turning around to take out Brown 16-5 for a victorious doubleheader. The undefeated Trojans improve to 18-0 on the year and pick up another MPSF victory with the win over CSU Bakersfield, now 4-0 in conference play.

    MPSF TOURNAMENT CENTRAL

    FOLLOW MPSF ACTION ON TWITTER

    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, on Feb. 27. USC remained at No. 1 for seven straight weeks until the Cardinal grabbed an MPSF win over USC on April 13, putting the Trojans back at No. 2 for the past two weeks.

    MPSF RUNDOWN
    No. 5 seeded California is this year's host for the MPSF Championships, which features seven teams this season for a new format from past tournaments. Now a seven-team conference, the MPSF has awarded a first-round bye to the top seed. That goes to No. 1 Stanford, which finished 6-0 in MPSF play. The Cardinal (26-1) will go straight to the semifinals, where they await either No. 4 UCLA or No. 5 host Cal. The seedings shake out with USC (21-1) at No. 2, followed by No. 3 Arizona State (25-5), No. 4 UCLA (24-5), No. 5 Cal (16-6), No. 6 San Jose State (11-10) and No. 7 CSU Bakersfield (12-22).

    THIS TIME LAST YEAR
    USC took third in the 2012 MPSF Championships, held in Palo Alto. The Trojans entered the tourney with a 19-4 overall record and as the No. 3 seed, opening with an 8-1 win over No. 6 seed San Jose State. USC would tangle with rival UCLA in the semifinals, with the No. 2 seeded Bruins managing the winning goal with three seconds to go to beat USC 4-3 and advance to the final. USC, meanwhile, squared off against No. 5 seed California in the third-place game and held strong to beat the Bears 6-4 on the hands of six different scorers, including Monica Vavic, who was the only Trojan named to the MPSF All-Tournament Team. Goalie Flora Bolonyai posted double-digit saves in every game, finishing the tourney with 42 total saves.

    NCAA SELECTION
    The selection announcement for the 2013 NCAA Championships is set for April 29 at 5 p.m. PT at ncaa.com.

    LAST WEEK
    USC turned a one-goal game into a dominating victory in Westwood as the Trojans ran rampant over No. 4 rival UCLA in the Bruins' home pool last week. After UCLA pulled within one, the Trojans turned on the turbo boosters and rattled in five straight goals -- including sophomore Monica Vavic's 100th career goal -- to put the Bruins way out of reach with an 11-6 victory. The win wrapped up the regular season with the Women of Troy in second place at 5-1 in the MPSF standings, taking a 21-1 overall record into the postseason as the No. 2 seed in the coming MPSF tourney. USC's offense was super charged by hat tricks from Anni Espar and Kaleigh Gilchrist, while Vavic rang up her 100th and 101st career goals with a pair of strikes in the win. The cage was guarded stalwartly by Flora Bolonyai, who hauled in eight saves, including six in the second half as the Trojan defense allowed only two goals in the final two frames. The last UCLA goal was a flukey one, with an extra ripple allowing a floater to creep barely across the line with one second left in the game. That Bruin score ended 12 minutes and 35 seconds of scoreless play by the Bruins, who watched the Trojans turn a 6-5 lead into an 11-5 advantage en route to the 11-6 final. UCLA never led in the game as USC wrapped up its third straight win over its rival. The Trojans add their second win of the year over the Bruins to last year's victory in the 2012 NCAA Semifinals to boast three consecutive wins over UCLA for the first time since the 1999 season, when USC beat UCLA six games in a row. For her powerful scoring prowess in the Trojan victory, USC's Kaleigh Gilchrist was named MPSF Player of the Week.

    BY THE NUMBERS
    Through this run of the 2013 regular season, USC is outscoring opponents 331-111 on the year. Sophomore Monica Vavic has been the undisputed scoring leader down the stretch, with 62 goals scored to date -- far outpacing her freshman season total of 39 to push her past the 100 career goal mark. She hit the landmark goal against rival UCLA on April 19. Next in line on the scoresheets are junior Kaleigh Gilchrist with 34 goals, junior Hannah Buckling with 26, senior Dominique Sardo with 25 and sophomore Jayde Appel with 24. Freshman Anni Espar has missed some games for travel and injury, but is right up there as well on the MPSF leader board with 19 goals scored in her 11 appearances to average 1.7 goals per game. On the defensive end, USC has a reliable anchor in junior goalie Flora Bolonyai, who averages 7.7 saves per game and is third in the MPSF with 4.95 goals-against per game. In all, the Trojans lead the conference with 15.05 goals per game. USC is second in the MPSF defensively with 5.05 goals-against per game.

    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. Thanks in part to a hat trick at UCLA, Gilchrist now holds 34 goals on the year, followed by Sardo at 25.

    CENTURY CLUBBING
    USC sophomore Monica Vavic has sprinted to her 100th career goal, hit last week at UCLA. Vavic got to 100 in her 41st game as a Trojan, and she now holds 101 as she works her way up USC's all-time top-20 career scorer list. To date, two more Women of Troy are closing the gap on the century mark. Junior Kaleigh Gilchrist is just four goals away from the club, taking a career count of 96 into this week's MPSF tourney. Senior Dominique Sardo also is within reach, holding 87 as she enters postseason play. Stay tuned!

    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 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, USC registered a sweep of MPSF honors on February 25. 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 tourney, including four on the crucial second day of competition. On March 11, 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.

    MONICA GOES BACK-TO-BACK
    The top gun in the MPSF to date is USC sophomore Monica Vavic, who has scored 62 goals to average 2.82 goals per game. Her scoring prowess helped her 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 Long Beach State. Vavic would keep up her scoring momentum with a hat trick against Azusa Pacific and four goals each in wins over 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 62 goals to date this year, Vavic has decidedly bettered her freshman season total of 39 goals. Her 62 goals ranks her No. 9 all-time in single-season goals scored. She can leapfrog her way up higher still, as the No. 8 mark is 63 goals, below 64 for No. 7 and two Trojans at No. 5 with 65.

    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.

    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. 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 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. •