No. 2 USC Battles No. 1 Bruins For MPSF Regular-Season Crown

    April 19, 2017

    USC Water Polo Release Get Acrobat Reader

    #2 USC at #1 UCLA
    1 p.m. PT | Saturday, April 22
    Spieker Aquatics Center (Westwood, Calif.)
    TV: Pac-12 Los Angeles
    Live Stream (Subscription Only):

    UCLA (Semifinals)9
    February 25, 2017
    Irvine, Calif.
    With postseason play just around the corner, this weekend's regular-season finale will paint a clearer picture of the terrain ahead for USC and the rest of the MPSF's heavy hitters. On Saturday (April 22), the No. 2 Trojans (26-1, 4-1 MPSF) head across town for a 1 p.m. crosstown splashdown at No. 1 UCLA (19-1, 5-0). The rivalry bout puts the MPSF regular-season title and key seedings for the coming conference tourney on the line. The game will be televised on Pac-12 Los Angeles with Adam Krikorian and Greg Mescall on the call.

    USC opened 2016 ranked No. 2 in the national preseason poll and in the MPSF preseason poll. After spending the first seven weeks of the season at No. 2, USC climbed to No. 1 following the Trojans’ win over top-ranked Stanford on Feb. 26. After an April 8 loss to the Cardinal, USC moved back to No. 2 in the nation and remains there this week.

    The No. 1 Bruins are 19-1 overall and 5-0 in MPSF play after a 10-9 upset win over Stanford last week. Maddie Musselman is UCLA's top scorer with 50 goals to date, while goalie Carlie Kapana is averaging 8.73 saves and 4.06 goals-against per game. USC is 26-49 all-time against the Bruins with wins in the past four meetings, including a 10-9 victory this season in the semifinals of the Barbara Kalbus Invitational. USC won three meetings against the Bruins last season — and 8-6 win in the Triton Invitational final, a 10-7 win in the UCI Invitational championship and an 8-5 win during MPSF play at USC. UCLA's last win over the Trojans was a 9-7 decision in the 2015 MPSF Tournament semifinals.

    The USC women set a new national women's record win streak on March 16, winning their 47th straight game in a 15-2 victory over Indiana in a neutral matchup in Honolulu — breaking the previous women's record that had been set by UCLA from 2007-09. The Trojans extended the streak to 52 in a row — dating back to the final game of 2015 and including an undefeated 2016 to add to this season's 25-0 start before an April 8 loss to Stanford brought the streak to a halt. With the Trojans' Feb. 26 overtime win over then-No. 1 Stanford at the Barbara Kalbus Invitational, the USC women broke the USC men's best winning run of 44 in a row (2005-06). The UCLA men hold the longest collegiate water polo win streak with 57 in a row, held from 2014-16.

    USC found the surge it needed to power out of a slow first half in Berkeley today, firing off four goals in the third period to net a 6-3 comeback win over No. 5 host California. Ioanna Haralabidis, Brigitta Games and Maud Megens each scored twice in the win, while goalie Amanda Longan collected 11 saves. With her pair of goals today, Games moved up USC’s all-time scoring ladder to crack the top-20, now at No. 19 all-time with 120 career goals. After a string of misfires by the Trojans, the Golden Bears got the first leg up in the game with a score on a 6-on-5 during the first period. The second frame would unfurl as a defensive stalemate once again until senior Games broke through for the Trojans with a turn and finish at set to lock the game up at 1-1. That would hold until halftime, and in the third period the Trojans would make their move. Megens earned a power play for USC and Ioanna Haralabidis’ blast would be too hot for the Cal goalie to handle as the Trojans edged into the lead, up 2-1. Cal would get the chance to pull even with a 5-meter penalty shot, but the attempt would bar out and USC goalie Amanda Longan was there to stop the try off the rebound. Freshman Megens would rise up for back-to-back big goals for USC next, sizzling in a score off the foul and then rifling in another goal a minute later to tug the Trojans ahead 4-1. Less than a minute after that, USC got up on a 6-on-5, where Haralabidis found Games for the slam to make it 5-1 Trojans on a five-goal scoring surge. Cal would snap the run with a goal in the final minute of the frame, and USC gripped a 5-2 lead entering the fourth. The scoring clip slowed a bit again in the fourth, but USC’s Haralabidis ripped in a goal from the corner to make it a 6-2 USC lead with 3:21 left to play. Cal would score two minutes later, but that would wrap the scoring action on the day as USC emerged victorious with the 6-3 MPSF road win.

    In the past several weeks, the Women of Troy have made themselves at home on the MPSF honor roll. Stephania Haralabidis claimed her second MPSF Player of the Week pick of the year after punching up five goals in a tight road win over Hawai'i. A week later, USC made it a sweep as Brigitta Games was named the MPSF Player of the Week, and Maud Megens was selected MPSF Newcomer of the Week. Games had scored 12 goals in three games, including a seven-goal explosion in an MPSF win over San Jose State. Megens totalled seven in that stretch to earn the first MPSF accolades of her young Trojan career. Two weeks ago, Megens continued to click off key goals to keep USC in winning mode, as she nabbed a second straight selection as MPSF Newcomer of the Week on April 4.

    The nation's best teams tangled in Irvine at the Barbara Kalbus Invitational, and USC made another winning run at the event. After pinning up its first shutout win of the year to open the tourney, topping No. 20 LMU 14-0 behind a four-goal game from Ioanna Haralabidis and 10 saves from Amanda Longan, USC closed down group play with a 12-4 win over No. 7 Hawai'i. Haralabidis added four more in that one, while goalie Victória Chamorro had a career-high 17 saves to get USC through to the semifinals. There, the Trojans would face rival UCLA for the first time this year, and USC was able to shrug off an early 3-2 deficit and more out ahead of the Bruins for a final 10-9 victory to seal a trip to the title match once again. In their first meeting since the 2016 NCAA Championship game, USC was up against top-ranked Stanford. The Cardinal tied up the game at the end of the third and then again later in the fourth to bring up overtime. There, USC would issue back-to-back scores to take a lead in the first OT frame. In the second, Stanford struck first, but USC struck last when it mattered, netting a blast from Haralabidis to go up 10-9 with five seconds left, and USC would fend off the Cardinal for the win. Brianna Daboub led the scoring charge for USC with three goals, while Longan gathered in 12 saves to help keep the Cardinal at bay. For her 10 goals logged at the tournament, including that OT game-winner, Ioanna Haralabidis picked up her first career selection as MPSF Player of the Week. Along the way, Haralabidis also moved up to rank as USC's No. 10 all-time scorer.

    Junior goalie Victória Chamorro gave up just four goals and accumulated 19 saves in two appearances in the cage for the Trojans at the Triton Invitational. For her stellar defensive efforts, Chamorro picked up her first career selection as MPSF Player of the Week on Feb. 14. In a complete-game effort in the championship match against #5 Arizona State, Chamorro collected 12 saves while allowing just two goals to the Sun Devils in a 12-2 championship win. The previous day, she checked in for three periods of work against #17 San Diego State and made seven saves while allowing just two goals through by the Aztecs. Chamorro’s effort in the cage helped USC successfully defend its Triton Invite title and improve to 14-0. Now with 366 career saves to her name to date, Chamorro ranks No. 6 all-time on the Trojans’ career saves list. She's gone big this season with several powerful performances, collecting 11 saves in a single half of work at UCSB, and gathering a career-high 17 saves in a win over Hawai'i already this year.

    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 back in January, helping to earn the senior USC's first MPSF Player of the Week award 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.

    Through the first 27 games of 2017, the 26-1 Trojans have outscored opponents 420-113 Senior Stephania Haralabidis is the team and the MPSF's top scorer to date with 73 goals — sixth most in a single season by a Trojan and giving her 258 career goals to lock her in at No. 2 on USC's all-time scoring chart. Behind her on the 2017 scoresheet sits freshman Maud Megens and Brigitta Games with 50 goals each, followed by senior Ioanna Haralabidis with 49 goals to date. On the defensive end, three goalies have checked into the cage to date. Sophomore Amanda Longan has logged minutes in 19 games, averaging 10.67 saves and 5.02 goals-against per game. Junior goalie Victória Chamorro has appeared in 12 games and averages 10.22 saves and 3.0 goals-against per game. Freshman Holly Parker has also capped up in her first year as a Trojans, making 16 saves and allowing just seven goals in her eight appearances. The Trojan defense has opponents silent in at least one period of play in 21 different games while accumulating a grand total of 42 shutout periods this season so far.

    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. On March 25 vs. Hartwick, she took over as USC's No. 2 scorer, and she now holds 258 career goals to her name. Ioanna, meanwhile, started out 2017 at No. 20 in the record books. After 27 games, she has catapulted to No. 10 all-time, holding 167 career goals to date to stand three away from the No. 9 spot. On March 4, another USC senior broke into the century club at Troy, as Brigitta Games scored her 100th career goal in a win at CSUB. Games remains on the climb, now seated at No. 19 all-time with 120 career goals. While those three 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 366 career saves to rank No. 6 on the career saves charts and sit 11 away from the No. 5 position. Sophomore Amanda Longan is a spot behind, sitting at No. 7 all-time with her 313 saves and counting.

    USC's leadership corps boasts 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 74 career goals to her name, Peterson stands out as a 2-meter power for the Trojans. Daboub has rung up 84 goals to date. Goalie Amanda Longan also has picked up a captain's role this season, standing out as a vocal defensive leader for the Trojans in her sophomore season.

    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.

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

    On last year's All-American list, there was one USC freshman standing tall. 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 16 saves and allowed only seven goals in her 10 periods of action so far.

    In this year’s freshman class, there are 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 Stein, Sawyer Belville and Kaylee Brownsberger also notched their first career goals as Trojans in those first days of competition at the Winter Invite.

    USC rolled its way to another Triton Invitational title in February, beating four teams to claim the championship in La Jolla. Led by five goals from Maud Megens, USC opened up with an 18-2 win over Santa Clara to start the first day of play. That afternoon, Brigitta Games and Stephania Haralabidis each had hat tricks to help lift USC to a 17-4 win over San Diego State. The next day, USC put its silencers on in the fourth period of both contests to top off another run to a Triton Invitational championship. In the semifinal round against No. 6 Michigan, USC worked out ahead of the Wolverines to notch a 9-5 win and move on to the title match. There, the Trojans poured on a run of eight consecutive goals, rendering the Sun Devils scoreless as USC crafted a 12-2 lead entering the final minute of the game. One last big save from goalie Victória Chamorro — her 12th save of the game — wrapped up the resounding victory for the Trojans, while Haralabidis finished off a hat trick during the surge to victory.

    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. •