No. 3 USC Sets Up For Home Showdown With No. 2 Stanford

    USC's 2015 home opener at Uytengsu brings No. 2 Stanford to town for an MPSF clash.
    March 4, 2015

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    No. 3 USC has its home opener on tap this week, setting up camp at Uytengsu Aquatics Center for an MPSF matchup against No. 2 Stanford. The Trojans and the Cardinal have each captured an NCAA crown in the past two years, cranking up the competition level for this week's showdown. USC (14-1) will square off against Stanford at 2 p.m. on Sunday (March 8) in a battle to be televised by Pac-12 Networks, with Chris Dorst and Kevin Danna on the call.

    March 30, 2014
    Palo Alto, Calif.
    No. 1 USC Suffers First Loss of 2014, Falling 9-5 At No. 3 Stanford
    The No. 1 USC women's water polo team was dealt its first loss of the year at the hands of host No. 3 Stanford, which had the hot hand in today's rematch of the 2013 NCAA Championship game. The Cardinal looked comfortable in its home waters today, making a six-goal run to seal a lead for a 9-5 victory over the defending national champs in Palo Alto. The loss snaps a 27-game winning streak held by the Trojans, dating back to a loss to Stanford last season -- its only loss of 2013. USC is now 20-1 overall and 4-1 in MPSF play.

    USC opened 2015 ranked No. 3 in both the national and MPSF preseason polls. Now seven weeks into the season, the undefeated Trojans remain ranked as the nation's No. 3 team.

    USC shrugged off an early deficit and charged on to an 11-7 victory over No. 5 host UC Irvine last week. Melissa Bergesen wielded the offensive power for the Trojans, whipping in a four-goal game to keep USC on track. Defensively, it was another USC newcomer who anchored the opposite end of the pool, as freshman goalie Victória Chamorro hauled in 10 saves on the day. After trailing 1-0 early on, USC fired off a four goals in three minutes to move into the lead to stay. Stephania Haralabidis rifled in a pair during the rally, with Bergesen and Eike Daube joining in to push USC out ahead 4-1. After UCI snapped the run, Jayde Appel answered in the final minute to make it a 5-2 USC lead by the close of the first frame. The Anteaters were able to narrow the gap down to two by halftime as the Trojans came up with just a single goal from Bergesen in the second period of play to hold a 6-4 advantage at the break. USC would pour it back on in the third, however, rattling home four more goals -- including a buzzer-beater by Bergesen to net her third goal of the game and jump out ahead of UCI 10-5 entering the final frame. The final Trojan goal of the day came again from Bergesen in the last period of action to help the Trojans finish off an 11-7 final victory over the Anteaters. Bergesen would be named MPSF Player of the Week on March 3 for her efforts in the win over UCI.

    The No. 2 Cardinal is 13-1 overall after a 17-4 win over Santa Clara and a 16-3 win over Sonoma State last week. The Cardinal's lone loss of the year was a 7-6 overtime decision to UCLA in the final of the UCI Invitational. Kiley Neushul stands as Stanford's top scorer with 31 goal. In goal, Gabby Stone is averaging 8.2 saves per game and 4.4 goals-against per game in her 11 appearances, with Emily Dorst averaging 8.4 saves and 3.4 goals-against per game in 8 appearances. USC is 27-28 all-time against Stanford after facing the Cardinal just once last year and taking a 9-5 loss in Palo Alto. USC's last win over Stanford was an epic 10-9 triple sudden-death overtime victory to claim the 2013 NCAA Championship in Boston.

    Through these first 15 games of 2015, USC is outscoring opponents 280-55, leading the MPSF in offense and defense to date. Senior Monica Vavic is the top scorer to date with 60 goals as she has climbed to No. 2 all-time in career scoring (251 career goals). Next in line in scoring this year is sophomore Stephania Haralabidis with 39 goals, followed by Ioanna Haralabidis with 29, junior newcomer Melissa Bergesen with 26 and senior Eike Daube with 23. Daube just cracked the 100-goal mark with her two-goal effort at UC Irvine on Feb. 28 to now hold 101 career goals. Stephania Haralabidis is now three goals from the century mark at Troy. On the defensive end, USC has a reliable new anchor in freshman goalie Victória Chamorro, who is averaging 6.9 saves per game and 3.8 goals-against per game in her 14 appearances to date.

    USC went into the 2015 UCI Invitational defending back-to-back titles at the competitive early-season tournament. Seeded No. 3 for this year's edition, the Women of Troy opened up group play with an 11-3 win over No. 18 UC Santa Barbara and then stayed balanced and powerful in ending the first day with a 14-4 win over No. 6 Arizona State. That put the Trojans into the semifinals against rival No. 2 UCLA. That match presented more of a defensive battle, and USC would wind up short in the low-scoring affair, taking a 5-3 loss to the eventual tourney champion Bruins to move into the third-place game. There, USC was ready to go in a clash with No. 4 California. The Trojans peeled out ahead of the Bears and pinned up a 12-6 win to wrap the tourney on a winning note with a third-place finish. Monica Vavic was USC's top scorer at the event, punching up nine goals with scores in every game, including hat tricks vs. ASU and Cal. Fellow senior Eike Daube drummed up seven goals, also striking in every game and with a hat trick vs. UCSB. Sophomore Ioanna Haralabidis also registered a hat trick vs. Cal, finishing up with five goals at the tourney. In goal, Victória Chamorro went the distance in all games. The freshman topped out with 10 saves in the third-place victory over Cal. She had eight saves vs. ASU and seven vs. UCLA.

    During USC's winning effort at the Lancer Invitational, freshman Brianna Daboub was a perfect 8-for-8 on the offensive end of the pool. Her eight goals across the four games helped USC improve to 10-0 on the year, and also earned her the honor of MPSF Newcomer of the Week on Feb. 17. Daboub had scored just three goals in USC's previous six games coming into the Lancer Invitational, but stepped up and scored two goals in the opener against host Cal Baptist. She'd add another goal that day in a win over Redlands, and then upped her scoring game further the next day. Daboub delivered her first career hat trick in a win over Pomona-Pitzer and then scored twice in a win over Occidental to wrap the event with eight goals on eight attempts. It was Daboub's first career award as a Trojan, making her the second USC newcomer to win the award this season. Fellow freshman Victória Chamorro earned the honor on Feb. 10.

    USC's youth movement is showing its strength, with sophomore Stephania Haralabidis named MPSF Player of the Week and freshman goalie Victória Chamorro named MPSF Newcomer of the Week on Feb. 10 for their roles in helping the Trojans claim the Triton Invitational championship. Haralabidis was an offensive force for the Women of Troy, while Chamorro backed up the USC defense to great success. The respective MPSF honors are the first of each Trojans' career. Haralabidis twice won Newcomer of the Week honors last season as a freshman. Haralabidis had a huge final day at the Triton Invitational to help power the Trojans to the tournament title. She scored five goals in the semifinal win over No. 11 CSUN and then replicated that with another five goals tallied in the championship victory over No. 6 UC Irvine. Hot out of the gates in both games, Haralabidis had four goals in the books by halftime vs. CSUN and a first-period hat trick against UCI. She'd finish out the tournament with 14 total goals after providing two apiece in wins over Cal State East Bay and Long Beach State on the first day of competition. Chamorro set a career best for herself in hauling in 15 saves during USC's Triton Invitational championship victory over No. 6 UC Irvine. Chamorro went the full four quarters in that one, which USC won 10-5. She'd finish out the tournament with 27 total saves in her 13 periods of work, having played the first three frames in each of the first three games at the tourney. In all, Chamorro allowed just 11 goals during the tournament.

    In USC's first games of 2015, Monica Vavic got out to a career-best start. She plugged in a career-high eight goals in the Trojans' season-opening win over CSU Bakersfield and then added six more goals in a win over Cal Baptist at the UCLA Invitational. For her powerful kickoff to her senior season, Vavic was selected the MPSF Player of the Week on Jan. 20. Along with her grand total of 14 goals, Vavic also contributed eight assists and seven steals in her five periods of work across the two wins. Vavic served up five assists in the 33-5 win over the Roadrunners and then had three more assists in the 24-3 win over Cal Baptist. Her eight goals scored in the opener matched the most goals in a single game by an MPSF player since 2007 and the most by a Trojan since Aniko Pelle in 2001.

    Senior Monica Vavic continues to creep up the career ladder at Troy. Now with 251 career goals, Vavic ranks as USC's No. 2 all-time leading scorer. Thanks to her incredible scoring pace this year, she stands to take over as USC's all-time leader, needing just five more goals to do so. Currently, Olympian Aniko Pelle holds the top mark of 255 career goals. Vavic also is making her mark in the MPSF history books. She now ranks at No. 7 all-time in the conference. Pelle, by comparison, is tied at No. 5 all-time in the MPSF, with the top conference scorer listed as Pacific's Molly Smith with 286 career goals. Vavic has already tacked up one new record for herself, having scored a USC and MPSF record of nine goals in a single game with her effort on Feb. 14 vs. Pomona-Pitzer.

    USC's three returning All-Americans alone have proven they can provide serious firepower. Monica Vavic topped the charts in 2014 with 75 goals on her way to a third straight selection as an All-American. Eike Daube and Stephania Haralabidis were first-time All-American honorees last season, having served up a combined 102 goals in weighing in as USC's next most prolific scorers. All told, six of USC's top eight scorers are back for more in 2015. Seniors Daube, Vavic and Jennifer Stiefel were right in that mix last season. Stiefel punched in 31 goals; Daube was third on the team with 44 goals; and Vavic's 75 goals pumped up her career tally to 191 to rank her No. 7 all-time in career scoring -- 64 goals shy of the all-time record. Fueling the offensive fire further are now-sophomores Stephania and Ioanna Haralablidis, whose 58 and 33 respective goals as freshmen make them key elements for 2015 as well, along with junior Jayde Appel, who struck 25 goals last year. Needless to say, USC has an adept ability to score.

    USC's backbone for the last four seasons has been in the cage. Olympian and four-time All-American goalie Flora Bolonyai has now graduated, leaving the defensive duties to a new international import. Brazilian national teamer Victória Chamorro takes over as USC's starting goalie, backed up by returners Alegra Hueso and Melanie Slater, who both got in good game action last season. Head coach Jovan Vavic sees Chamorro as a burgeoning talent for the Trojans.

    2015 OUTLOOK
    Twenty years ago, Jovan Vavic got the ball officially rolling for women's water polo at USC. Fair to say, that ball just continues to pick up speed. Under Vavic's guidance, the Women of Troy have won four national championships since that inaugural 1995 season. And ever since winning their second title in 2004, Vavic's Trojans have reached the NCAA Tournament every single season while capturing two more crowns along the way. This year, the USC women show no signs of losing any of that postseason steam. Besides coach Vavic, there are three Women of Troy who have already had a taste of NCAA Championship glory. Junior Jayde Appel and senior All-Americans Eike Daube and Monica Vavic were all three members of USC's 2013 national championship team. Their veteran savvy provides the groundwork for this 2015 roster, which is also replete with plenty of talented youth to help drive USC back toward a 12th consecutive trip to the NCAA tourney after a third-place finish last season and a 26-4 overall mark. •