Undefeated USC Claims Top Spot For 2016 NCAA Championships

    Jovan Vavic and the Trojans are looking to capture a fifth national championship and stay undefeated in 2016.
    May 2, 2016

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    The undefeated USC women's water polo team rolls into its 13th consecutive NCAA appearance in search of the program's second perfect season and a fifth national championship. The top seed for the 2016 NCAA Championships, USC boasts a 23-0 overall record after claiming its fourth MPSF Championship yesterday. Now, the Trojans set up for a journey across town to engage in action at the 2016 tournament, which runs May 13-15 at UCLA's Spieker Aquatics Center.

    It's been four years since USC last claimed the top seed in the NCAA Tournament. The 2013 Trojans also won the MPSF Championship that year and went on to win the 2013 NCAA title in a heart-stopping triple sudden-death victory. Four years prior to that, the Trojans were NCAA champs for the third time in program history. USC's 2010 championship came as the No. 2 seed in that year's bracket and followed a second-place finish at the MPSF tournament.

    This year, the 2016 Trojans certainly have the ability to make that four-year championship cycle hold true. Head coach Jovan Vavic's 22nd USC women's team is remarkably balanced, boasting the top defense in the conference as well as the most powerful offense. The 2016 Trojans have a formidable tag team in the cage with All-American sophomore Victoria Chamorro and all-star freshman Amanda Longan combining forces. In front of them, the USC defense is an incredibly stubborn bunch. At last weekend's MPSF Championships, USC shut out California for the entire second half in the semifinal and silenced Stanford in the second quarter to help leverage a victorious run to the 2016 crown.

    Offensively, USC is led in scoring by a set of four juniors who are hungry to win their first NCAA championship. Stephania Haralabidis leads the way with 55 goals scored to date to help tighten her grip as USC's No. 8 all-time career goal scorer. Next, a tight grouping of fellow juniors Brigitta Games (36 goals), Ioanna Haralabidis (34) and Avery Peterson (33) add to the Trojans' depth charge. Meanwhile, Brianna Daboub and Hayley McKelvey are showing their sophomore savvy with a combined 46 goals added to the Trojan cause.

    The 2016 NCAA Championship bracket was released today (May 2) on ncaa.com. The top-seeded Trojans (23-0) earned their place in the tourney as the automatic bid out of the MPSF by winning the championship yesterday in Bakersfield. The rest of the 10-team 2016 NCAA field includes three other MPSF teams -- UCLA (24-4), Stanford (21-5) and Arizona State (19-7) -- awarded at-large berths, along with the automatic bids won by conference champions around the nation. Those other automatic qualifiers are: Michigan (29-6, Collegiate Water Polo Association), UC Santa Barbara (18-12, Big West Conference), UC San Diego (26-9, Western Water Polo Association), San Diego State (16-16, Gold Coast Conference), Wagner (29-9, Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference) and Whittier (25-7, Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference).

    The 2016 National Collegiate Women's Water Polo Championship will be a 10-team, single-elimination tournament. Four teams will participate in two play-in games in order to secure quarterfinal slots.

    USC opens the 2016 tournament at 3:30 p.m. on May 13 playing the winner of one of two play-in games. Those two games will be held May 10 at UC San Diego. USC's quarterfinal opponent will be either San Diego State (16-16) or Wagner (29-9). In the other play-in game, UC San Diego (26-9) and Whittier (25-7) will face off for the right to play UCLA in the May 13 quarterfinals. The other May 13 quarterfinal matchups are set: Michigan (29-6) will take on Arizona State (19-7), while Stanford (21-5) faces UC Santa Barbara (18-12). Winners will advance to May 14 semifinals rounds, with the 2016 national championship game set for May 15 at 5:30 p.m. at Spieker Aquatics Complex. Complete schedule with times will be posted at UCLA's NCAA Tournament Central page.