Trojans Take Third At NCAA Tourney With 9-8 OT Win Over Cal

    Captains Monica Vavic and Eike Daube with the 2015 NCAA third-place trophy.
    May 10, 2015


    PALO ALTO, CALIF. -- The USC women's water polo team shrugged off a two-goal deficit and saw its youth movement come through as the Trojans pulled off a 9-8 overtime comeback win over California to claim third place at the 2015 NCAA Tournament at Avery Aquatic Center in Palo Alto, Calif. USC seniors Monica Vavic and Jenny Stiefel accounted for the first three goals of the game, but then the scoring torch was passed to the Trojan underclassmen as USC charged on to the intense and hard-fought comeback victory. USC finishes the season with a 24-6 overall record in making its 12th consecutive trip to the NCAA tourney.

    Senior Monica Vavic hammered home the first two goals of the game, nudging her season scoring count to an even 100. Already the USC and MPSF career scoring leader with 291 career goals, Vavic wraps her senior season as just the second Trojan ever to hit triple digits in a single season, just behind Sofia Konoukh's 104 scored in 2001.

    Vavic punched in two 6-on-5 goals in the first period of play as USC led 2-1 after eight minutes of action. The Bears would move ahead with back-to-back strikes to open the second period, nudging ahead 3-2 before senior Eike Daube got to work at set, earning one of several 6-on-5 chances for her Trojans. Fellow senior Jennifer Stiefel sliced in a score to equalize things at 3-3, and more hard work from Daube gave USC another 6-on-5 soon after. That one would go awry, but USC kept charging. With 1:52 on the clock, freshman Brianna Daboub let loose a ripper, giving USC a 4-3 lead that lasted just 30 seconds. Cal pulled even with a shot slotted to the top corner, and it would be 4-4 by halftime.



    Cal's Dora Antal was hot-handed in this one, netting two slick scores around a 6-on-5 rocket from Stephania Haralabidis on a pass from sister Ioanna. Antal's third goal of the game had given the Bears a 6-5 lead, though, and that would stand through to the end of the third.

    Antal kept coming in the fourth, sweeping in a score that pulled Cal to a 7-5 advantage with 5:20 on the clock in the fourth. USC was undeterred. Sophomore Brigitta Games, playing her first season as a Trojan, was a machine at two-meters. She'd earn a whopping seven 6-on-5 opportunities for the Trojans, including two in the fourth frame. Games' efforts would be rewarded when Stephania Haralabidis laced in a crosscage bar-in blast that tugged the Trojans back within one, down 7-6 with 4:33 on the clock. Daube would earn a 5-meter penalty shot next, and Vavic went to the line for the try. Her rocket slammed off the post, though, leaving USC still behind one with just 2 minutes left in regulation. The Women of Troy would answer the call. Freshman Hayley McKelvey grabbed a steal soon after; Games got USC another power play, and Daube found Ioanna Haralabidis for the laser that equalized things at 7-7 with 1:07 to go. Neither team would break through in the remaining time, bringing up overtime to decide things.

    Games stayed the course in overtime. Her hard work got USC another power play early in the first OT, and again Daube was the feeder for a key USC goal. This time, the senior found freshman McKelvey, who rose to the occasion and capitalized with a sizzling score to give USC its first lead since the first half, up 8-7. Antal wasn't finished for the Bears, however. She'd deliver the perfect lob to make it a tie game again, and the 8-8 draw would stand through to the first OT buzzer. In the second overtime, Games took things into her own hands as she made the turn, carried two defenders and still slotted the ball through for the finish and the 9-8 USC advantage. With 1:33 remaining, the Trojan defense took care of the rest, and one final steal from Vavic sealed the deal. The balanced Trojan effort saw USC emerge victorious for the third-place come-from-behind victory.

    At the close of the tournament, Monica Vavic was named to the NCAA All-Tournament First Team, and Eike Daube was named to the NCAA All-Tournament Second Team.

    2015 NCAA CHAMPIONSHIPS (Palo Alto, Calif.)

    USC 9, California 8 (OT)
    May 10, 2015 - Avery Aquatic Center (Palo Alto, Calif.)
    USC 2 - 2 - 1 - 2 -- 1 - 1 = 9
    CAL 1 - 3 - 2 - 1 -- 1 - 0 = 8

    USC -- Monica Vavic 2, Stephania Haralabidis 2, Jennifer Stiefel, Brianna Daboub, Ioanna Haralabidis, Hayley McKelvey, Brigitta Games.
    CAL -- Dora Antal 5, Anna Illes, Emily Loughlin, Kelly McKee.

    SAVES: Victória Chamorro (USC) 12, Madeline Trabucco (CAL) 8.