Women's Water Polo
    USC Takes No. 3 Seed Into MPSF Tourney

    Patricia Jancso and the Trojans head back to Palo Alto for MPSF tournament action.

    April 25, 2012

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    The Women of Troy are the No. 3 seed into this year's MPSF Tournament, hosted by top-seeded Stanford at Avery Aquatic Center with action running April 27-29. USC (19-4) will open its campaign to claim an automatic berth in the 2012 NCAA Tournament by taking on No. 6 seed San Jose State (18-11) at 2:30 p.m. in the first round on Friday (April 27). A win there would put the Trojans in a 4 p.m. semifinal on Saturday (April 28) for a shot at the 4 p.m. championship game on Sunday (April 29), preceded by a 2:30 p.m. third-place game.


    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.

    Top-ranked Stanford is this year's host for the MPSF Championships, entering the tourney as the No. 1 seed after an undefeated run through conference play while holding a 21-1 overall record. UCLA (18-3) takes the No. 2 seed by virtue of a head-to-head tiebreak win over No. 3 seed USC (19-4), with No. 4 seed Arizona State (23-5) holding the same tiebreak advantage over No. 5 seed California (17-7). From there the rest of the seedings shook out as No. 6 San Jose State (18-11), No. 7 San Diego State (21-9) and No. 8 seed Hawai'i (10-12).

    USC finished fifth at the 2011 MPSF Championships after rebounding from a loss to UCLA in the first round by pinning up wins over Arizona State and Hawai'i. The No. 5 seeded Trojans were 16-5 overall entering the tournament, and made life difficult for themselves with slow starts in its first two games, but were able to play strong second halves in all three games at the tourney. USC's rough start against No. 4 seed UCLA, however, could not be solved by an improved second half, and the Trojans took a 12-10 loss to the Bruins to move out of contention for a conference crown. USC would fall behind early against No. 8 seed ASU as well, but the Trojans regrouped to pull out a 10-9 comeback win and step into the fifth-place game against No. 3 seed Hawai'i. USC would have to fight out of a two-goal hole against the Rainbow Wahine in order to roll on to the win, netting an 8-7 victory to wrap up the tournament on a winning note and keep hold of an at-large slot in the NCAA Tournament. Joelle Bekhazi followed up a career-high five goals against UCLA with a hat trick in the win over Hawai'i to earn the senior a spot on the MPSF All-Tournament Team.

    NCAA SELECTION: The selection announcement for the 2012 NCAA Championships is set for April 30 at 5 p.m. PT at ncaa.com.

    USC's sophomore goalie Flora Bolonyai has helped Team Hungary to a place at the coming 2012 Olympic Games in London thanks to a resounding win over Kazakhstan. The quarterfinal round at the Women's Water Polo Olympic Qualification Tournament was intense, with semifinal slots also securing a place in London. By the time the water settled in Trieste, Italy, the Olympic women's water polo field was complete. Along with Flora Bolonyai's Hungary team, former Trojan Sofia Konoukh has helped Russia qualify as well, putting Konoukh in position for her fourth Olympic appearance. Konoukh had to face off against two other former Trojans in the crucial quarterfinal round, as Russia edged out Canada for the semifinal spot and trip to London. Canadians Joelle Bekhazi and Rosanna Tomiuk are recent USC grads. Another former Trojan, Ilse van der Meijden of the Netherlands, also came up just short of an Olympic spot when the Dutch team lost in the quarterfinals. van der Meijden and the Netherlands won gold in 2008 in Beijing. So with Olympic qualification now under her cap, Flora Bolonyai is now set to return to USC to rejoin the Women of Troy for the coming MPSF Tournament next week to fight for a place at the 2012 NCAA Tournament. In addition to Bolonyai (Hungary) and Konoukh (Russia), the USA Olympic roster -- due to be announced next month -- could well contain three more Trojans. Tumua Anae, Kami Craig and Lauren Wenger were all members of the U.S. squad that secured Olympic qualification earlier by means of winning the Pan-American Games. The complete 2012 Olympic women's water polo field is: Australia, China, Hungary, Italy, Great Britain, Russia, Spain and United States.

    USC is currently third in the MPSF in offense and defense, outscoring opponents 274-124 to average 11.9 goals scored and 5.4 goals-against per game. Sophomore Kaleigh Gilchrist is USC's top scorer with 42 goals to date, followed by freshman Monica Vavic with 30 goals. Not far behind her are junior Patricia Jancso and senior Nadia Dan with 24 each. Dan hit her 100th career goal on March 22 vs. Long Beach State and now ranks No. 19 all-time with 106. Jancso got to 100 on Feb. 23 in USC's win over Hawai'i, and now holds 115 career goals to rank No. 17 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 on March 26 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. Gilchrist's scoring explosion has her leading USC with 42 goals to date.

    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 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. Led by Vavic's 30 goals to date, that group of five newbies have accounted for 65 goals for the Trojans this year.

    Versatility has been 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. The sophomore savvy of Kaleigh Gilchrist, Colleen O'Donnell and Madeline Rosenthal -- who combined for 35 goals as freshmen -- have more than doubles their output as sophomores to 72 goals to date. O'Donnell and Rosenthal got extra experience in the offseason as members of the U.S. Junior National Team, along with junior Dominique Sardo, 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.

    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.

    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.