No. 2 USC Streaks On To Triton Invitational in La Jolla

    Feb. 8, 2017

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    THIS WEEK
    The No. USC women's water polo team shoves off for La Jolla this weekend to engage in action at the Triton Invitational. The defending champions will open group play on Saturday (Feb. 11) with an 8:30 a.m. matchup against Santa Clara. A win there would put USC in a 3:10 p.m. game against the winner of the morning's San Diego State-Hartwick clash to fight for a spot in the semifinals. A victorious Saturday would put the Trojans in the 11:10 a.m. semifinal on Sunday (Feb. 12). The championship game is set for 5:50 p.m. that evening, preceded by a 4:30 p.m. third-place game.

    USC IN THE RANKINGS
    USC opened 2016 ranked No. 2 in the national preseason poll and in the MPSF preseason poll. USC remains the No. 2 team in the land in this fifth week of 2017 competition.

    TRITON INVITATIONAL NOTES
    This year’s edition of the competitive Triton Invitational features 16 teams, with USC and Arizona State standing as the lone MPSF teams in the mix. The teams will open up action playing through four-team brackets, designated as follows:

    Bracket A: #2 USC, #16 Hartwick,#17 San Diego State, Santa Clara
    Bracket B: #5 Arizona State, #14 Long Beach State, #18 UC Davis, Sonoma State
    Bracket C: #8 UC Irvine, #20 LMU, #9 UC San Diego, Cal State East Bay
    Bracket D: #6 Michigan, #9 UC Santa Barbara, #22 CSUN, #23 Marist

    Saturday's action will feature group play. On Sunday, semifinals and placement games will be held. Last year, the Trojans grabbed another Triton Invitational title with a four-win push through the 2016 event. USC opened up with a 20-2 win over Santa Clara and then a 15-8 win over UC San Diego to advance to the semis. There, the Trojans beat Arizona State 6-3 to take a spot in the title match, where USC upset top-ranked UCLA 8-6 to claim the tournament championship.

    LAST WEEK
    USC snagged three wins last week, picking up a 23-6 win in the Trojans' home opener against San Diego State before pulling in two more at the Whittier Invitational. There, USC beat Pomona-Pitzer 25-2 and then topped Chapman 24-1 to go to 10-0 on the year. Against San Diego State on Friday night, nine different Women of Troy hit the back of the net, led by a five-goal outing by senior Stephania Haralabidis and a new career high of four goals from junior Annika Jensen. Sophomore goalie Amanda Longan, meanwhile, collected 10 saves in the first half to help anchor USC to its eighth straight win of the year. After San Diego State locked up even early with the Trojans, USC fired off a five-goal rally on strikes from five different scorers to take early control of things. The frame would close down with a blast from Hayley McKelvey, tugging the Trojans to a 7-2 advantage entering the second period. In that next stretch, USC rattled off eight more goals spread between six different Trojan hands. Maud Megens and Brigitta Games each struck twice to round out first-half hat tricks and bulk up the USC advantage to 15-4 at the break. In the second half, Stephania Haralabidis and Annika Jensen kept clicking, with the senior tallying three more goals to hit five on the night, and the junior issuing a goal a quarter to finish off her career night with four goals. The USC defense would silence the Aztecs in the third quarter while piling up three more USC goals. And in the fourth period, USC freshman Kelsey McIntosh rang up her first career goals as a Trojan, punching in two goals to help the USC round out a 23-6 victory. The next morning at the Whittier Invite, USC rang up back-to-back wins. In the opening clash against the Sagehens, the Trojans peeled out to a 14-0 halftime lead and ballooned the advantage out to 21-0 in the fourth frame before Pomona-Pitzer was able to break through. By halftime, USC freshman Kelsey McIntosh — playing in just her second game as a Trojan — rang up four goals for the USC cause. So, too, did junior Brianna Daboub. In the third period, senior Stephania Haralabidis would close out her hat trick, and freshman Maud Megens would do the same in the fourth. By the final buzzer, 12 different Women of Troy had scored, while sophomore goalie Amanda Longan gathered 11 saves in going the distance in the cage. In the second game of the morning’s action, the Trojans took an 8-0 lead on Chapman during the first frame. Seniors Brigitta Games and Avery Peterson would punch up two goals apiece in the first eight minutes to generate a 9-1 USC lead. By halftime, Stephanie Haralabidis and Games had both rounded out a hat trick, with back-to-back blasts from Haralabidis netting 15-1 halftime lead for USC. In the second half, the Trojans would stay the course. Stifling defense was paired with a youth movement as sophomore Courtney Fahey drummed two goals and newcomers Sawyer Belville, Kaylee Brownsberger, Kelsey McIntosh and Denise Mammolito joined fellow freshman Elise Stein on the scoresheet to help finish off a 24-1 final win for USC. Victória Chamorro played the first three of the game before giving way to freshman goalie Holly Parker. No goals would get past Parker down the stretch in the defensively stingy effort by the Trojans.

    STEPH STRIKES IT BIG AT WINTER INVITE
    Stephania Haralabidis set a new career high and tied the MPSF single-game record with nine goals scored in the final game of the Winter Invitational over the weekend. Now, the senior has picked up her fourth career selection as the MPSF Player of the Week and the first of 2017. Haralabidis’ nine-goal outburst came in USC’s 19-5 win over No. 9 host UC Santa Barbara, marking the Trojans’ fifth straight win at the event. Haralabidis let all USC scorers with 17 goals totaled across those five games. She opened the season with a single goal scored in a 17-3 win over No. 8 Michigan on day one. On the second day, Haralabidis scored twice in a 22-1 win over Cal Baptist and punched in two more in a 16-3 win over CSUN. The final day was Haralabidis’ big one, as she had a hat trick in a 13-8 win over No. 5 Hawai’i before the record nine-goal explosion against UCSB.

    BY THE NUMBERS
    Through the first seven games of 2017, undefeated USC has outscored opponents 20-34. Senior Stephania Haralabidis is the top scorer to date with 33 goals — giving her 221 career goals and putting her three goals away from moving up to the No. 3 all-time scoring slot. Behind her on the 2017 scoresheet sits twin sister Ioanna Haralabidis with 23 goals and freshman Maud Megens with 21 goals score in her first 10 games as a Trojan. On the defensive end, three goalies have checked into the cage to date. Sophomore Amanda Longan has logged minutes in six games, averaging 12.0 saves and 4.2 goals-against per game. Junior goalie Victória Chamorro has appeared in five games and averages 10.3 saves and 2.6 goals-against per game. One of those outings saw Chamorro collect 11 saves in just one half of action at UCSB. Freshman Holly Parker has also capped up in her first year as a Trojans, making 11 saves and allowing just five goals in her five appearances. The Trojan defense has held nine of its 10 opponents silent in at least one period of play while accumulating a grand total of 20 shutout periods this season so far.

    ON THE RISE
    Greek twins Stephania Haralabidis and Ioanna Haralabidis are climbing in the USC record books. Stephania opened 2016 ranked as USC's No. 8 all-time career scorer. Now 10 games into 2017, she is already closing the gap on the No. 3 spot, holding 221 career goals to date — just three away from that next rung on the career ladder. Ioanna, meanwhile, started out 2017 at No. 20 in the record books. After 10 games, she has catapulted to No. 14 all-time, holding 141 career goals as of Feb. 6. While those two are rising in the ranks on the offensive end, two Trojans are making their marks on the USC career saves sheet. Junior Victória Chamorro — who set a USC freshman goalie record with 207 saves in her first season at Troy — now boasts 310 career saves to rank No. 6 on the career saves charts. Sophomore Amanda Longan is a spot behind, sitting at No. 7 all-time with her 202 saves and counting.

    OH CAPTAINS, MY CAPTAINS
    USC's leadership corps is a veteran pair, with senior Avery Peterson and junior Brianna Daboub standing tall as USC's team captains for the second straight season. Both All-Americans and All-MPSF Honorable Mention recipients, they also are both MPSF Scholar-Athletes. And of course, they captained the Trojans to an undefeated 2016 season to claim their first national crowns. With 63 career goals to her name, Peterson stands out as a 2-meter power for the Trojans. Daboub has rung up 70 goals to date.

    BRINGING BACK THE BALANCE
    USC's 2017 roster looks strikingly similar to last year's NCAA Championship crew. The Trojans' overall balance is back, with all six top scorers returning, along with an All-American pairing of goalies in sophomore Amanda Longan and junior Victória Chamorro back in the cage. In all, the returning Trojans accounted for 88 percent of the scoring last year, while Longan and Chamorro combined for an average of 8.8 saves and 4.7 goals-allowed per game in 2016.

    THE VETS
    Senior captain Avery Peterson is one of five seniors on the roster for 2017, joined by fellow All-Americans Brigitta GamesIoanna Haralabidis and Stephania Haralabidis, along with Nikki Stansfield. A further depth charge of veteran talent with winning experience comes from juniors Brianna DaboubAnnika Jensen and Hayley McKelvey. All warriors, all competitors, and all fiercely devoted to their team and the task at hand.  

     

    NETMINDERS
    On last year's All-American list, there was one USC freshman standing tall among them. At 6-foot-2 Amanda Longan was an impact player as soon as she splashed down at Troy, Longan quickly made herself at home as half of an impressive goalkeeping tandem for the Trojans — sharing time with 2015 All-American and Brazilian Olympian Victória Chamorro. Now a junior-sophomore goalkeeping tandem, Chamorro and Longan are yet another expression of the youth movement making waves alongside USC’s juniors and seniors. They have some backup this year as well, with freshman Holly Parker having proven herself fully capable of stepping into the cage as she has logged seven saves and allowed only three goals in her six periods of action so far.

    THE NEW CREW
    When it comes to this year’s freshman class, there are already several new faces that are forcing opponents to take notice. Dutch import Maud Megens has emerged as the headliner so far. She tallied 10 goals in her first five games of action to stand as USC's third leading scorer after that first week of work. Denise Mammolito also made noise in week one, punching up six goals, while fellow freshmen Elise SteinSawyer Belville and Kaylee Brownsberger also notched their first career goals as Trojans in those first days of competition at the UCSB Winter Invitational.

    2017 TROJANS AT A GLANCE
    The defending national champions are coming off an undefeated run through 2016, with head coach Jovan Vavic at the helm for the 23rd season. The USC women are looking to claim back-to-back national titles for the first time in program history. Their 13th consecutive NCAA appearance was a fortunate one, as the Trojans topped off 2016 by raising the NCAA trophy. Picked No. 2 in the National and MPSF Preseason Polls, the Trojans weigh in just behind top-picked Stanford for the second straight season. USC returns all six 2016 All-Americans, including Cutino Award winner Stephania Haralabidis and Cutino finalist Brigitta Games.  In addition to those two powers — both seniors this year — USC has seven All-Americans on the roster for 2017. Both All-American captains, Brianna Daboub and Avery Peterson, return, having combined for 63 goals last year. Peterson's career-best 35 goals in 2016 was matched by Ioanna Haralabidis. In all, USC returns 12 members of last season’s 16-player NCAA roster. •