No. 3 USC Splashes Down In Westwood To Battle No. 2 Bruins

    The Trojans take aim at the Bruins on Saturday in Westwood.
    April 15, 2015

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    No. 3 USC will do battle against crosstown rival UCLA in the teams' regular-season finale, with the No. 2 seed in the MPSF Tournament up for grabs. The Trojans (21-2, 4-1 MPSF) will be looking to avenge an early-season loss to the Bruins when they square off for the second time this season. This MPSF matchup will take place in Westwood, with No. 2 UCLA (20-2, 4-1) hosting the No. 2 Women of Troy at 1 p.m. on Saturday (April 18) at Spieker Aquatics Center.

    UCLA (Semifinals)5
    February 22, 2015
    Irvine, Calif.
    USC opened 2015 ranked No. 3 in both the national and MPSF preseason polls. Now 13 weeks into the season, the Trojans remain ranked as the nation's No. 3 team.

    USC team turned a one-goal game into a daunting advantage with a 12-goal scoring surge that left visiting No. 8 San Jose State in the Trojans' wake for a 21-6 victory in the final game of the year at Uytengsu Aquatics Center. USC got 11 different scorers in on the action, including seven goals scored by seniors in the win. USC seniors Monica Vavic and Eike Daube would help lead the scoring onslaught with a hat trick apiece, although it was sophomore Stephania Haralabidis who hit three goals first in the game. Daube and Vavic would be joined by fellow senior Sara Salamon on the scoresheet as they knocked in the last three USC goals of the game. Salamon would become the 11th Trojan to score in the win. Salamon, Daube, Vavic, Jennifer Stiefel and Michelle Mercado were all honored before the game in a Senior Day ceremony. Once action got underway, it was San Jose State that proved hot out of the gates. The Spartans took the first lead of the game with a quick strike on their first possession, forcing the Trojans to regroup. USC worked out ahead with three straight scores, but San Jose State was able to close the gap down to one on two more occasions. A bar-in goal from Clara Espar Llaquet cut the score to 4-3 early in the second period, serving as a wake-up call to the Trojans. USC's defense locked down, and the offense heated up, as the next 14 minutes of action saw the Women of Troy score 12 goals while holding the Spartans scoreless in that stretch. Stephania Haralabidis had completed her hat trick during the storm, while Avery Peterson, Brianna Daboub and Daube tacked up two goals apiece in that rally. Ioanna Haralabidis, Brigitta Games, Hayley McKelvey and Vavic also got in on the fun as USC ballooned its advantage to 16-3 before Espar Llaquet broke SJSU's silence in the final minute of the third. Up 16-4 entering the final frame, USC kept coming. Vavic's second goal of the day came after the senior nabbed a nifty steal, then took the ball the other way on a solo mission to score. Ioanna Haralabidis would zip in a 6-on-5 strike later; Daube followed Games' lead with a monster move and finish at set; Salamon struck her seventh career goal with a power play blast later in the frame; and Vavic wrapped the day's action with a bullet to make it a 21-6 final victory for the Women of Troy in their last home game of the year.

    The No. 2 Bruins enter the week at 20-2 overall and 4-1 in MPSF play after losing to Stanford 8-7 last week in Palo Alto. Rachel Fattal leads UCLA in scoring with 39 goals so far. Goalie Sami Hill is averaging 8.8 saves and 4.4 goals-against per game in her 21 appearances. USC is 22-47 all-time against UCLA after a 5-3 loss to the Bruins in the semifinals of the UCI Invitational in February. Last year, USC beat UCLA 7-6 in overtime in the 2014 UCI Invitational championship, then lost 6-4 in MPSF action and fell 5-3 in the 2014 NCAA semifinals.

    Through these 23 games of 2015, USC is outscoring opponents 404-102, leading the MPSF in offense (17.57 gpg) and in defense (4.43 gapg). Senior Monica Vavic is the top scorer to date with 85 goals -- second most single-season goals in USC history -- as she has climbed to No. 1 all-time in career scoring (276 career goals). Next in line in scoring this year is sophomore Stephania Haralabidis with 55 goals, followed by Ioanna Haralabidis with 44, senior Eike Daube with 37 and junior newcomer Melissa Bergesen with 35. Daube cracked the 100-goal mark with her two-goal effort at UC Irvine on Feb. 28 and now holds 115 career goals to rank No. 19 all-time in scoring at USC. Stephania Haralabidis passed the century mark on March 13 vs. ASU, and now holds 113 career goals to rank at No. 21. On the defensive end, USC has a reliable new anchor in freshman goalie Victória Chamorro, who is averaging 6.78 saves per game and 4.3 4goals-against per game in her 22 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, 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. The freshman has now provided 20 goals to date for the Trojans.

    USC's youth movement has been 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 were the first of each Trojans' career. Haralabidis scored five goals in the semifinal win over No. 11 CSUN and then replicated that with another five goals tallied in the 10-5 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 in the title match vs. No. 6 UC Irvine. 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 has blazed a trail up the career ladder at Troy and now has her name etched at the top, having decisively taken over as USC's all-time leading scorer with 273 career goals to date. The record finally fell with Vavic's third goal scored against ASU on March 13. That blast pushed Vavic past Olympian Aniko Pelle, who had set the previous best of 255 when she finished her USC career back in 2002. Vavic also is making her mark in the MPSF history books. She now ranks at No. 3 all-time in the conference. The top conference scorer is listed as Pacific's Molly Smith with 286 career goals. Earlier this year, Vavic tacked up another 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. The freshman has proven Vavic right in many ways. She's picked up two MPSF Newcomer of the Week awards (Feb. 10 & March 31) with the latest honor coming after a win over LMU, where Chamorro blocked three 5-meter penalty shots.

    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. •