No. 3 USC Captures Third Place In MPSF Tournament With 8-6 Win Over Cal|
April 30, 2017
WESTWOOD, CALIF. — The No. 3 USC women’s water polo team came through in the clutch with a comeback push to beat No. 5 California 8-6 and claim third place in the MPSF Championships today in Westwood. Up by two at the end of the third, the Trojans saw the Golden Bears battle back and take a one-goal lead in the fourth frame before USC regrouped and rattled off three unanswered goals in the last four minutes to secure a key victory for the Trojan cause. Now 28-3 overall, USC awaits the bracket announcement for the NCAA Championships, which will be revealed on Monday (May 1).
USC’s offense was paced in the first frame by Brianna Daboub, who punched up the opening goal and then delivered the early equalizer after Cal managed back-to-back goals to move into the lead midway through the first. Daboub also earned a pair of exclusions, and converted one of her own with a slick finish to make it 2-2. In the second, Cal manufactured another go-ahead goal with a score as the teams pulled even on a 6-on-5, but USC had a swift response at the ready. Brigitta Games got USC up a 6-on-5 at the other end next, and Maud Megens found Stephania Haralabidis for a rifle shot that locked the game back up at 3-3. Defenses held their ground the rest of the way, and that snarl would hold for halftime.
The Trojan defense made its presence known quickly in the third frame, with goalie Amanda Longan boldly coming out to collect a pass into 2-meters. Stephania Haralabidis would issue a pair of field blocks against Cal’s next possession, and Megens and Longan would come through with back-to-back takeaways soon after. With 3:14 on the clock, Games made her move, taking the pass, turning and rocketing through the go-ahead goal for USC. After another Longan save — she’d finish with 14 in the game — USC would strike again in the final minute. Megens found Haralabidis for a strong effort and finish with a crosscage ripper, and USC gripped a 5-3 lead entering the fourth frame.
Cal would end 12 minutes of scoring silence with a skipper on its first possession of the fourth, and the Bears were working toward a momentum shift. Cal struck again with a 6-on-5 score to the top corner, then hit the corner again to steal back into the lead, up 6-5 with 4:30 left to play. The Trojans were not rattled, however. USC stiffened its defense and found an offensive spark right when it needed to. Daboub would earn another 6-on-5 for the Trojans, then issued the setup pass to Haralabidis for a searing crosscage strike as teams pulled even, and it was an even game for the fifth time, knotted at 6-6 with 3:47 on the clock. Not a minute later, Megens found Ioanna Haralabidis for a clutch crosscage blast that got USC back into the lead and pulled the senior up to No. 9 all-time in scoring at USC with her 170th career goal. Longan shut down a Cal 6-on-5 next, and then USC made its move. Megens earned a power play for the Trojans, then got the ball to Hayley McKelvey for a sneaky lob that dropped perfectly to craft an 8-6 lead for USC with 1:33 remaining. USC’s defense did the rest, and the game would wrap with the Trojans victorious in an 8-6 decision over Cal.
USC now looks to the NCAA Tournament, which will be held May 12-14 in Indianapolis, Ind. The Trojans will enter the tournament as the defending national champions after an undefeated run to the 2016 title.
2017 MPSF CHAMPIONSHIPS (Westwood, Calif.)