Defending National Champs Earn No. 3 Seed For 2014 NCAA Tournament
April 28, 2014
The USC women's water polo team has snagged the No. 3 seed into the coming 2014 NCAA Tournament, which the Women of Troy will host at their own Uytengsu Aquatics Center next week, May 9-11. The Trojans set up not only to defend their home pool, but also their 2013 national championship, earned in a record-setting triple sudden death battle last year in Boston. USC will carry a hefty 24-3 overall record into the 2014 tourney, which includes 10 teams from around the country.
Four of those teams selected will compete in play-in games for the right to come to Los Angeles for the NCAA Tournament from May 9-11. USC is one of four at-large teams in the mix, joining six conference champions in this year's bracket. USC's selection to the 2014 tourney secures the Trojans' 11th consecutive trip to NCAA action.
The Women of Troy are leveling their gaze at securing a fifth national championship for the program. What's more, a 2014 crown would register as the university's 100th NCAA team championship. The Trojans certainly have the firepower and defensive prowess to get there. The 2013 NCAA Tournament MVP, senior goalie Flora Bolonyai, recently took over as the all-time saves leader in USC history. The 2013 National Player of the Year, junior Monica Vavic, is already in the top-10 in career scoring at Troy, with senior Kaleigh Gilchrist just a breath away from cracking the top-10 herself. Helmed by 2013 National Coach of the Year Jovan Vavic, the 2014 Women of Troy return nine players who competed in that 2013 NCAA Championship game, including six All-Americans in Bolonyai, Vavic, Gilchrist, Kelly Mendoza, Colleen O'Donnell and Madeline Rosenthal. Bolstered by the addition of talented freshman twins Ioanna and Stephania Haralabidis, the 2014 Trojans have the balance and skill to defend their crown. Stephania Haralabidis stands as USC's second leading scorer this year with 54 goals, followed by standout junior Eike Daube's 39 goals for the Trojan cause. In all, USC has led the MPSF -- which has five teams represented in this year's NCAA field -- in both offense and defense. USC is averaging 15.2 goals per game and just under 5.0 goals-against per game in building its 24-3 record to date.
The 2014 NCAA Championship bracket was released today (April 28) on ncaa.com. The No. 3 Trojans (24-3) earned their place in the tourney as an at-large selection, carrying the same number of wins into this year's tourney as they did last season. The rest of the 2014 NCAA field includes four other MPSF teams. Top-seeded Stanford (22-1) earned the automatic berth in winning the MPSF Tournament championship on April 27. The next four seeds have all gone to MPSF teams, which earned at-large selections by virtue of their strong seasons to date. In addition to No. 3 seed USC, MPSF teams in the draw are: No. 2 seed UCLA (25-4), No. 4 seed California (19-8) and No. 5 seed Arizona State (15-10). The remaining seeds have been filled by conference champions from around the country with automatic berths. Those seeded teams are: No. 6 UC Irvine (24-7, Big West Conference), No. 7 UC San Diego (26-10, Western Water Polo Association), No. 8 Indiana (22-5, Collegiate Water Polo Association), No. 9 Wagner (25-11, Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference) and No. 10 Pomona-Pitzer (23-13, Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference).
On May 3, No. 7 seed UC San Diego will face No. 10 seed Pomona-PItzer, and No. 8 Indiana faces No. 9 Wagner in play-in games. The winners of each will advance to the eight-team 2014 National Collegiate Women's Water Polo Championship, held May 9-11 at USC's Uytengsu Aquatics Center.
USC opens the 2014 tournament against No. 6 UC Irvine at 1:45 p.m. on Friday, May 9. Also that day, No. 2 Stanford (27-2) will face the winner of the play-in game between No. 8 Indiana and No. 9 Wagner. No. 3 seed UCLA will await the winner of the play-ing game between No. 7 UC San Diego and No. 10. Pomona-Pitzer. Meanwhile, No. 4 seed California will tangle with No. 5 seed Arizona State.
The winners of Friday's games advance to Saturday's semifinals, while the losing teams will move into a consolation bracket to contend for fifth and seventh places. Placement games will take place on Sunday, May 12. The seventh place game will be at 12:30 p.m. followed by a 1:45 p.m. fifth-place game. Third place goes up for grabs at 3:30 p.m., and the NCAA Championship match is set for 5:30 p.m.