No. 1 USC Streaks Up To Stanford For MPSF Clash Against The Cardinal

    The Women of Troy take aim at the Cardinal this weekend in a fight to stay No. 1 in the MPSF.
    April 13, 2016

    USC Water Polo Release Get Acrobat Reader

    Stanford (Semifinals)6
    February 28, 2016
    Irvine, Calif.

    The top-ranked USC women’s water polo team looks to collect another key MPSF win this weekend with a trip to Palo Alto to take on No. 3 Stanford. The Trojans (19-0, 4-0 MPSF) and the Cardinal (19-2, 4-0) are set to tangle in a 1 p.m. matchup on Saturday (April 16) at Avery Aquatics Complex in a battle between the two teams still holding undefeated MPSF records.
    USC opened 2016 ranked No. 3 in the national preseason poll and at No. 2 in the MPSF preseason poll. The Trojans moved up to rank No. 2 on Feb. 10, and rose in the ranks to stand as the No. 1 team in the nation as of the Feb. 17 national poll. The last time USC was ranked No. 1 had been in March 2014. USC remains as the nation’s No. 1 team this week.
    The No. 3 Cardinal is 19-2 overall and 4-0 in MPSF play after beating Cal 13-5 and San Diego State 14-5 last weekend. Jamie Neushul is Stanford’s top scorer with 39 goals to date. Goalie Julia Hermann averages 8.56 saves and 5.44 goals-against per game in her 78 periods played. USC is 28-31 all-time against Stanford after snapping a four-match losing skid with a 7-6 win in the semifinals of this year’s UCI Invitational. The Trojans lost three times to the Cardinal last year — a 12-9 overtime loss during the regular season, a 9-6 loss during the MPSF Tournament and a 9-8 loss in the NCAA Semifinals in Palo Alto.
    USC tightened its grip on its undefeated 2016 record with a victorious doubleheader that was headlined by a solid 8-5 win over rival UCLA to notch their third win of the year over the Bruins. The Trojans were in the driver’s seat throughout the rivalry clash against the visiting No. 2 Bruins, consistently coming up with some extra padding to the USC advantage after every UCLA attempt to close the gap. USC’s balance was in full effect against the Bruins, and after that final whistle the Trojans would find another depth charge as they capped the day with a 23-0 win over visiting Redlands in a nonconference clash. The Trojans had the first and last word in their rivalry clash with UCLA. Ioanna Haralabidis whipped in the opener for the Trojans, although the Bruins would break through less than a minute later to snarl the match up at 1-1 in just under two minutes of play. The Trojans settled in from there. The USC defense made its presence known in a set of saves from freshman goalie Amanda Longan and a big steal from Brigitta Games. On the offensive end, Games would take the Trojans back into the lead — for good — with a searing backhand off a setup from Haralabidis. With that 2-1 lead on the board, the Trojans would hit the gas from there. To open the second quarter, it was Games again. Her attack was fueled at first by a steal from Nikki Stansfield. Moments later, Games had tacked up her second goal of the half and made it a 3-1 USC advantage. A stretching save from Longan and another stop on a UCLA 6-on-5 chance would help keep USC on the attack. With 2:48 left in the half, senior Melissa Bergesen let fly  a perfect lob to net a 4-1 lead for the hosts. On the Bruins next possession, UCLA would slip in a skipper to cut down the deficit to 4-2, but one last steal from Avery Peterson would wrap up the half with the Trojans holding that two-goal lead. Peterson would kick off the third frame by earning yet another power play opportunity for her team. Brianna Daboub finished off that chance with a slick crosscage score, and USC was back to a three-goal lead, up 5-2. Once again, UCLA had a quick response and again cut the margin back to two. This time, Peterson took matters into her own hands to bulk up the USC advantage, going on a solo mission to get USC ahead 6-3. The back-and-forth battle raged on, but USC would pad things to a 7-4 lead just seconds before the close of the period when another Peterson-produced power play saw Ioanna Haralabidis find sister Stephania for the strike that had USC holding a three-goal lead entering the fourth. Midway through the fourth, UCLA lofted in a lob that just beat outstretched Longan to make it 7-5. USC’s recurring theme kicked right back into play next, however. Peterson’s hard work got USC up on a 6-on-5 and some smooth scoring from the Trojans saw Stephania rifle in the finish to make it 8-5 USC with 2:50 left to play. That score would stand, and the Trojans’ undefeated record and grip on the top of the MPSF standings remained secure with the win over rival UCLA. Not long after the close of the USC-UCLA matchup, the Trojans turned to finish off the day with a nonconference bout against Redlands. USC got out to a relatively slow start in that one, building a 2-0 lead on goals from Mackenzie Flath in the first frame. The Trojans opened the floodgates from there, though. USC tallied 11 goals in the second quarter to hold a 13-0 lead by halftime. Seven different Trojans had contributed goals through those first 16 minutes, led by four from Flath, who would finish up with six goals in the win. By the final buzzer, fellow freshmen Brooke PrestenDagmar Gudmundson and Courtney Fahey were also on the leaderboard with five, four and three goals apiece, respectively. Goalies Victória Chamorro and Alegra Hueso would each spend a half in the cage as they helped the Trojans lock in on a shutout victory with the 23-0 final decision over the visiting Bulldogs. 
    Two-meter player Avery Peterson is off to the races in her junior campaign, having already bettered her previous career total with a powerful 28 goals already scored this season alone. She set a new career high for herself with a six-goal game at Whittier on Feb. 6, and has since picked up her first career selection as MPSF Player of the Week. After punching up a hat trick in a key MPSF road win over Arizona State, Peterson earned the weekly award for the first time on March 8.
    USC tacked up another tournament title to remain undefeated in 2016 with a push to the UCI Invitational championship Feb. 27-28. The Trojans opened up with a 13-3 win over CSUN on day one and would wind up in a tough battle against tournament host UC Irvine later that afternoon, pulling off an 11-10 victory to move into Sunday’s semifinals. There, USC stoned No. 4 Stanford with a ferocious 7-6 comeback win to secure a place in the title match. In another title match faceoff with rival UCLA, USC held its ground against the No. 2 Bruins and pinned up a 10-7 victory to win the championship crown. Stephania Haralabidis would come through with the clutch game-winning goals against both UC Irvine and Stanford. She’d finish the tournament with 12 goals, including a career-high seven goals in the tight win over UC Irvine. Amanda Longan and Victória Chamorro would share time in the cage, each capping up for two games apiece. Longan got the call-up for the UC Irvine game and the UCLA faceoff in the final, and would come through with 10 saves in both appearances. For their roles in helping to drive the Trojans to the championship, Stephania Haralabidis and Amanda Longan secured another MPSF sweep of weekly awards, as Haralabidis was named MPSF Player of the Week for the second time and Longan grabbed MPSF Newcomer of the Week honors for the third consecutive week.
    Through the first 19 games of 2016, undefeated USC has outscored opponents 242-82, leading the MPSF in defense (4.32 gapg) and offense (12.89 gpg). Junior Stephania Haralabidis is the top scorer to date with 48 goals — ranking her No. 8 all-time in career scoring with 170 goals. Just a notch behind her are three fellow juniors. Twin sister Ioanna Haralabidis is now well past the century mark in career goals thanks to her 32 goals scored to date in 2016, followed by junior Brigitta Games with 31 goals. Just a step behind her is fellow junior Avery Peterson, who has already bettered her sophomore season total with her 28 goals to date. On the defensive end, freshman goalie Amanda Longan has capped in 12 games and is averaging 9.1 saves and 4.9 goals-against per game in her 36 periods of work. Returning All-American goalie Victória Chamorro has appeared in 32 periods and averages 6.9 saves and 4.6 goals-against per game. Senior goalie Alegra Hueso has allowed only one goal in her seven appearances in the cage to date. The Trojan defense has held 13 opponents silent in at least one period of play while accumulating a grand total of 24 shutout periods this season so far, including a complete-game shutout of Redlands on April 9.
    For their efforts in driving the Trojans to perfect performances at the Triton Invitational and UCI Invitational, USC’s Stephania Haralabidis and Amanda Longan have paired up to sweep the MPSF weekly honors twice so far this season. At the Triton Invitational Haralabidis scored nine goals, topping out with a hat trick in the title match, where the Trojans beat No. 1 UCLA 8-6 in the final. In the semifinals, Haralabidis scored twice to help generate a 6-3 win for USC over Arizona State. At the same event, freshman goalie Longan had a strong showing. In her two appearances, Longan collected a total of eight saves -- including a 5-meter penalty stop — and allowed only four goals. She made three saves in three periods of work in the opening 20-2 win over Santa Clara and then made five saves in the same stretch of action in USC’s 6-3 semifinal win over ASU. More recently, the duo proved instrumental again in guiding the Trojans to the 2016 UCI Invitational championship. Haralabidis’ 12 goals at the event included a career-high seven goals in a close 11-10 win over host UC Irvine, the game-winner with 5 second left in the 7-6 semifinal win over Stanford, and a hat trick in the 10-7 championship victory over UCLA. Longan, too, came up big in the cage with 10 saves vs. UCI and 10 more against the Bruins. That marked Longan’s third straight week as MPSF Newcomer of the Week, while Haralabidis secured her second MPSF Player of the Week award of 2016 with the pair’s second sweep of the season.
    The overall young Trojans have garnered plenty of international experience on the way into this 2016 campaign for USC. Incoming freshman goalie Amanda Longan won gold with Team USA at the 2015 FINA Junior World Championships, where several other Trojans were competing with their respective countries. The Haralabidis sisters, Ioanna and Stephania were in action with Greece; goalie Victória Chamorro capped up for Brazil; and Hayley McKelvey was a high scorer for Canada.
    USC’s goalkeeping corps this season is ferociously deep. Sophomore Victória Chamorro set a freshman goalie record last season in hauling in 207 saves in her first year as a Trojan. This year, she’s joined by freshman Amanda Longan, who was named Top Goalkeeper at the 2015 FINA Junior World Championships during the summer. Added veteran experience comes from senior captain Alegra Hueso, who appeared in 27 games during her first three seasons as a Trojan. 
    The most experienced player in the pool this season is junior Avery Peterson — one of three Trojan captains for 2016. Sophomore Brianna Daboub and senior Alegra Hueso also have been selected as team captains for the year. Peterson weighs in as the veteran of the group in that she has logged the most playing time of the bunch. With 20 goals to her name as a Trojan, the 2-meter power was in the water for USC’s last two NCAA Tournament runs. Daboub may just be a sophomore, but her savvy helps her stand out as another key leader for the Trojans this season. She scored 27 goals as a freshman and was named to the 2015 MPSF All-Newcomer Team. A senior, Hueso has been at Troy since her freshman season in 2013, when USC won its last NCAA Championship.
    USC was significantly tested in back-to-back games at the UCI Invitational, facing deficits against both UC Irvine and Stanford and finding a way to fight back to victory. The Anteaters are the only team this year to score in double digits against the Trojans, but USC remained unfazed in a see-saw battle against the tournament host that saw the lead change hands back and forth and lock up even seven times. UC Irvine led 4-3 after the first period of play and later got out to an 8-6 advantage with 3:38 left in the third period, only to see the Trojans rattle off three straight scores to work back into the lead. Hayley McKelvey provided the spark and Stephania Haralabidis followed with back-to-back blasts to take the Trojans ahead 9-8 with 1:22 to go in the third. A Haralabidis buzzer-beater would get USC ahead 10-9 entering the fourth. There, the Anteaters snarled it up for the seventh time with a score at 5:25. Less than a minute later, Haralabidis proved heroic again with her seventh goal of the game to get USC ahead 11-10 at 4:43, and that one would hold through a tense final few minutes get USC the victory. The very next morning, USC was in a crucial semifinal bout with Stanford, which pumped in three goals in the second frame to lead it 4-2 at halftime. The Cardinal would net one more in the third to put USC behind 5-2 entering the final period. That’s where the Trojans showed their mettle. McKelvey  broke the silence with a blast to start the fourth frame, and Brianna Daboub rifled one in to get USC within one, down 5-4 with 5:57 on the clock. The Trojans would shut down a Stanford 6-on-5 chance next, and then Brigitta Games shouldered the load and dished out the equalizer to get USC even again at 5-5 with 3:05 to go. The USC scoring run continued as Ioanna Haralabidis notched USC’s first lead since the first frame, hammering home the go-ahead goal at 1:14. In the final minute, Stanford broke through and managed to level it up at 6-6 with 54 ticks to go. USC would wind up on the attack as the clock wound down, setting up Stephania Haralabidis to come through as the hero of the game as she landed a lob in the back of the net with just 5 seconds left to get USC a 7-6 lead.
    The Women of Troy take aim at their 2016 campaign under the direction of head coach Jovan Vavic for the 22nd season. The USC women are looking to extend a streak of 12 straight trips to the NCAA Tournament, and the talent is certainly there to make a strong run at a title. Picked No. 2 in the MPSF Preseason Coaches Poll, the Trojans weigh in just a point behind top-picked Stanford. Both the Trojans and the Cardinal each received three first-place votes, hinting at a heated race for the 2016 title to come. USC returns three of its top five scorers from 2015 — Stephania Haralabidis (64 goals), Ioanna Haralabidis (50 goals) and Melissa Bergesen (37 goals) — along with All-American goalie Victória Chamorro and All-American two-meter power Brigitta Games. The Haralabidis twins earned All-American status last season as well. In all, USC returns 11 members of last season’s 16-player NCAA roster. •