No. 1 USC Can Cap Perfect Regular Season In Friday Home Clash With Cal|
April 20, 2016
The top-ranked USC women’s water polo team looks to close out a perfect regular season with one last home game this week. No. 1 USC (20-0, 5-0 MPSF) hosts No. 6 California (19-7, 1-3) in a 2 p.m. MPSF matchup on Friday (April 22) in a clash that will be televised by Pac-12 Networks at Uytengsu Aquatics Center. Adam Krikorian and Greg Mescall will be on the call for the broadcast, which goes out live on Pac-12 Los Angeles and Pac-12 Bay Area. USC has already clinched the top seed in the coming MPSF Tournament and will open up the tourney in the semifinals at 2:30 p.m. on April 30 in Bakersfield.
Before the USC-Cal clash kicks off, the Women of Troy will honor their three graduating seniors in a Senior Day ceremony. Friday marks the final home game for USC seniors Melissa Bergesen, Alegra Hueso and Nicola Welch.
USC IN THE RANKINGS
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. 6 Golden Bears are 19-7 overall and 1-3 in MPSF play after losing to Stanford 13-5 in their last action. Carla Carrega is Cal's top scorer with 53 goals to date. Goalies Madeline Trabucco and Madison Tagg have shared time in the cage. Trabucco averages 5.6 saves and 4.9 goals-against per game in her 53 periods played, while Tagg averages 5.6 saves and 5.8 goals against in 48 periods of work. USC is 34-18 all-time against Cal after posting a 9-8 overtime win in last year's NCAA Tournament third-place game. In 2015, USC also beat Cal 12-6 at the UCI Invitational and won 6-5 in Berkeley.
USC churned out its 20th win of 2016 in dominating fashion, whipping up a solid 8-3 win over No. 3 Stanford in the Cardinal's home pool to mark the Trojans' biggest win over Stanford since 2009. The top-ranked Trojans kicked out to a 3-0 lead on their hosts and didn't let the Cardinal get any closer than two goals down the stretch as USC tightened its vice grip on the top of the MPSF standings by handing Stanford its first loss in conference action. Hayley McKelvey's second hat trick of the season came at an opportune time as she helped pace the Trojans to victory. USC's win today also secured the top seed and a first-round bye for the coming MPSF Tournament. The Trojans will play their first match in the semifinal round at 2:30 p.m. on April 30 in Bakersfield. Brigitta Games served up the spark for the Women of Troy in drumming up the first goal of the day on USC's very first possession. McKelvey's first of three goals came a minute later, prompting the Trojan defense to continue to clamp down on the Cardinal. Stanford would come up scoreless for the first 13 minutes of the game while USC built a 3-0 lead. McKelvey's second strike gave USC the three-goal lead before Stanford finally broke through. The 3-1 USC advantage would stand through to halftime as both defenses stood tall through to the break. In the second, USC hit the gas again when Stephania Haralabidis finished off a USC power play to make it 4-1 three minutes into the third frame. Again, Stanford was able to fire off a quick response to make it 4-2, but USC would unleash a three-goal response that spanned into the fourth. Haralabidis rifled one through to make it 5-2 entering the fourth, and USC promptly ballooned its lead with back-to-back scores slotted by Brianna Daboub and McKelvey. Up 7-2 with 6:34 left to play, USC would see Stanford slip one goal in a minute later, but that would be all the Trojan defense would allow. Ioanna Haralabidis hammered home a score to make it 8-3 with 1:29 to go, and goalie Amanda Longan would close up shop on the defensive end. The freshman knocked down a couple more key saves to expand her career-high count to 17 on the day, and USC's decisive 8-3 victory over Stanford was in the books. Longan would go on and grab her fifth set of MPSF Newcomer of the Week honors for her efforts against the Cardinal.
PETERSON PICKS UP THE PACE
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.
UCI INVITE CHAMPS
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.
BY THE NUMBERS
Through the first 20 games of 2016, undefeated USC has outscored opponents 253-85, leading the MPSF in defense (4.25 gapg) and offense (12.65 gpg). Junior Stephania Haralabidis is the top scorer to date with 50 goals — ranking her No. 8 all-time in career scoring with 172 goals. Just a notch behind her are three fellow juniors. Twin sister Ioanna Haralabidis is now well past the century mark and has cracked the top-20 in career goals thanks to her 33 goals scored to date in 2016, followed by junior Brigitta Games with 32 goals. Just 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 13 games and is averaging 9.9 saves and 4.7 goals-against per game in her 40 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 14 opponents silent in at least one period of play while accumulating a grand total of 25 shutout periods this season so far, including a complete-game shutout of Redlands on April 9.
TROJAN SWEEPS WEEKS
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.
OH CAPTAINS, MY CAPTAINS
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.
GUT CHECKS IN IRVINE
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.
2016 TROJANS AT A GLANCE
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. •