Defending Champion USC Hosts 2014 NCAA Tournament

    The Women of Troy take aim at another NCAA crown this weekend at Uytengsu Aquatics Center!

    May 5, 2014

    USC Water Polo ReleaseGet Acrobat Reader

    The USC women's water polo team is looking to defend home turf as well as its 2013 NCAA title when the Trojans splash down at Uytengsu Aquatics Center this week for the 2014 NCAA Championships. USC takes aim at its first back-to-back national championships as the Women of Troy make their 11th straight NCAA appearance. USC has won previous crowns in 1999, 2004, 2010 and 2013. Currently at 24-3 overall, host USC holds the No. 3 seed in the 10-team field of contenders at this 2014 NCAA Tournament. Action at USC's new-and-improved Uytengsu Aquatics Center begins on May 9 and runs through the title match on May 11. USC (24-3) opens the 2014 tourney against No. 6 seed UC Irvine (24-7) at 1:45 p.m. on Friday (May 9). In the rest of the first day's action, No. 2 seed UCLA (25-4) faces No. 7 seed UC San Diego (27-10, which beat No. 10 seed Pomona-Pitzer (23-14) in a play-in game last weekend; No. 1 seed Stanford (22-1) faces No. 8 seed Indiana (23-5), which beat No. 9 seed Wagner (25-12) in their play-in game; No. 4 seed California (19-8) is up against No. 5 seed Arizona State (15-10). The winners will advance to May 10 semifinal rounds, with the 2014 national championship game set for 5:30 p.m. All matches will be streamed live online through


    UC Irvine5
    April 6, 2014
    Uytengsu Aquatics Center
    No. 3 USC Controls No. 6 UC Irvine 16-5
    The No. 3 USC women's water polo team displayed its dominance today, settling back into home waters and building a comfortable lead with a powerful second period of play against visiting UC Irvine. The Trojans rattled in six goals and allowed none by the Anteaters in that frame for a power surge that jolted USC to an eventual 16-5 victory at the Uytengsu Aquatics Center, where the Women of Troy will remain for the duration of 2014 competition. USC improves to 21-1 overall with the win as it now sets up for two more regular-season games at home before turning to host the MPSF and NCAA tournaments.

    USC opened 2014 ranked No. 1 in both the national and MPSF preseason polls. The Trojans stayed in the top spot in the land until April 2, following a loss to Stanford. USC currently weighs in tied at No. 4 in the latest national rankings.

    Seven Women of Troy Earn All-MPSF Honors

    USC has won four national championships in program history, with the first coming in 1999 before the NCAA sponsored women's water polo. In 2004, the Trojans posted the first-ever undefeated season on the way to capturing the 2004 NCAA title. USC's third title came in 2010 in a championship win over Stanford. Last year, the Trojans topped Stanford in triple sudden-death overtime -- the longest NCAA final in history -- to claim a fourth national championship for USC. USC has also finished third in 2005 and 2007, placed second in 2006, 2008 and 2009 and 2012, and was fourth in 2011. This year marks USC's 11th consecutive NCAA appearance and 11th overall, as the Trojans hold an 21-9 all-time record in NCAA tournament play. What's more, the Women of Troy have a chance to register the university's 100th NCAA team championship with a run to this 2014 tourney title.

    The No. 3 Trojans (24-3) earned their place in the tourney as an at-large selection, carrying the same number of wins into this year's tourney as they did last season. The rest of the 2014 NCAA field includes four other MPSF teams. Top-seeded Stanford (22-1) earned the automatic berth in winning the MPSF Tournament championship on April 27. The next four seeds have all gone to MPSF teams, which earned at-large selections by virtue of their strong seasons to date. In addition to No. 3 seed USC, MPSF teams in the draw are: No. 2 seed UCLA (25-4), No. 4 seed California (19-8) and No. 5 seed Arizona State (15-10). The remaining seeds have been filled by conference champions from around the country with automatic berths. Those seeded teams are: No. 6 UC Irvine (24-7, Big West Conference), No. 7 UC San Diego (26-10, Western Water Polo Association), No. 8 Indiana (22-5, Collegiate Water Polo Association), No. 9 Wagner (25-11, Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference) and No. 10 Pomona-Pitzer (23-13, Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference).

    USC was the No. 1 seed into the 2013 NCAA Championships, held at Harvard's Blodgett Pool. The Trojans opened up with a powerful 27-1 win over No. 8 seeded Pomona-Pitzer to face Hawai'i in the semifinals. There, USC recorded a 16-9 victory that launched the Trojans into their seventh NCAA title match. After 45 minutes and 47 seconds of water polo, USC freshman Anni Espar drilled the game-winner for the Trojans to beat defending champion Stanford 10-9 in the third sudden-death period of play ( The Women of Troy had trailed the whole game, including an early three-goal deficit until Hannah Buckling hit the equalizer with 1:56 to go in the fourth period of play. It was nothing but heart-pounding water polo the rest of the way, see-sawing back and forth throughout the tense OT frames. Goalie Flora Bolonyai would deservedly be named the NCAA Tournament MVP at the close of competition, honoring a body of work that culminated in a career-high 17 saves in the title match. She was joined on the NCAA All-Tournament First Team by Trojans Kaleigh Gilchrist and Anni Espar, with NCAA All-Tournament Second Team honors going to Hannah Buckling. Buckling led all with four goals in the NCAA championship win, with Madeline Rosenthal powering in two crucial goals in the second period of play as USC worked to cut into a 3-0 deficit. Nicolina McCall, too, was instrumental in that comeback push, scoring her goal in the second frame as well. Anni Espar would finish with two goals -- the last being the championship clincher -- and Kelly Mendoza was USC fifth scorer in the game with her OT strike. The win secured USC's fourth national championship in program history and the university's 119th national championship. It also marked the fourth time that the USC men's and women's water polo programs -- under the guidance of head coach Jovan Vavic -- have won national championships in the same academic year (also accomplished in 1998-99, 2003-04 and 2009-10). The USC men won their fifth straight NCAA championship in 2012. The men recently won it again in 2013, setting up the women for a potential fifth championship sweep for USC.

    Through the 2014 regular season, USC is more than tripling the output of its opponents, outscoring teams 409-134 to lead the MPSF in offense and defense to date. Junior Monica Vavic is the top scorer to date with 67 goals as she has climbed to No. 7 all-time in career scoring (183 career goals). Next in line in scoring this year is freshman Stephania Haralabidis with 54 goals, followed by Eike Daube with 39 goals, Kaleigh Gilchrist with 33 and freshman Ioanna Haralabidis with 31. Gilchrist also is on the career climb, ranking No. 12 all-time with 140 career goals. On the defensive end, USC has a reliable anchor in senior goalie Flora Bolonyai, who is averaging 9.9 saves per game and 4.9 goals-against per game in her 25 appearances to date.

    USC has several Trojans on the rise in the record books. Junior Monica Vavic currently holds 183 career goals to have cracked the all-time top-10. With four goals vs. Bakersfield on March 7, she took over the No. 8 spot previously held by two-time Olympian Kami Craig. She's now flying solo at the No. 7 spot. Senior Kaleigh Gilchrist, too, is making moves up the ladder. With 140 career goals, Gilchrist ranks No. 12 all-time, having bumped another two-time Olympian, Lauren Wenger out of the No. 13 spot along the way. She's now two scores away from a share of No. 10. Defensively, senior goalie Flora Bolonyai passed up Tumua Anae last season to take over at No. 2. This year, she's taken over as USC's all-time career saves leader, having knocked off Bernice Orwig with her work in the cage on April 25. She's now creating some space between herself and the rest of the pack, taking a count of 871 career saves into her fourth NCAA Tournament. All three goalies in the USC top-three hold the distinction of being Olympians, with Orwig holding a silver medal with Team USA at the 2000 Games and Anae captured gold with the United States in 2012 in London. Bolonyai also is a 2012 Olympian, having played for Hungary in those Games.

    The 2014 Trojans return five starters from the last national championship team. NCAA Tournament MVP Flora Bolonyai -- an Olympian and a three-time All-American -- is the undeniable backbone of the team as the Trojans' steadfast goalie. She returns as one of five All-Americans back in the water, joined by fellow senior All-Americans Kaleigh Gilchrist, Kelly Mendoza and Madeline Rosenthal. Junior Monica Vavic returns as another All-American as well as the Trojans' top scorer and MPSF Player of the Year last season. That entire group gleaned even more key experience in the offseason, playing internationally throughout the summer along with several other Trojan teammates. Bolonyai won a bronze medal with Hungary at the 2013 FINA World Championships. Gilchrist, Mendoza and Vavic, as well as juniors Colleen O'Donnell and Eike Daube, all spent time with the U.S. National Team. Daube and Vavic combined forces for gold with the U.S. Junior National Team at the FINA Junior World Championships, while Jayde Appel pulled double duty in representing Australia at both the senior and junior World Championships. She'd bring home a World Championship silver medal from Barcelona, where Bolonyai picked up her bronze medal. The international standout list goes on. Back from training with the German National Team is junior Jennifer Stiefel, and new to the Trojan roster this season are the powerful sister act from Greece, Ioanna and Stephania Haralabidis.

    For the second time in five years, both the USC men's and women's water polo programs made a trip to Washington, D.C., to visit the White House as NCAA Champions. United States President Barack Obama extended an invitation to national championship teams from around the country for the opportunity to tour the White House and meet the President on March 10. Head coach Jovan Vavic brought his latest crews of champions, along with his coaching staff and a few support staff, on the memorable journey. Members of USC's 2013 women's team -- which won the title in a sudden-death victory -- and members of the 2013 men's teams -- which won a sixth consecutive title with an overtime victory -- took the trip to Washington. The last USC teams to make such a visit were the Trojans' 2010 champions. That was the last year that the USC men's and women's water polo teams went back-to-back with NCAA championships.

    USC is coming off a 2013 season in which the Trojans posted a 27-1 overall record, culminating the season by knocking off defending champ Stanford 10-9 in triple sudden death overtime for the 2013 NCAA Championship at Harvard. En route to winning their fourth national championship, the Trojans also won the 2013 MPSF Tournament championship with a win over the Cardinal in that title match. This season, USC returns 2013 MPSF Player of the Year and All-American Monica Vavic, who poured in 77 goals last year, along with senior All-Americans Flora Bolonyai at goalkeeper, Kaleigh Gilchrist, Madeline Rosenthal and Kelly Mendoza. Named the 2013 National Coach of the Year, USC head coach Jovan Vavic now enters his 20th season at the helm of the Trojan women's water polo program.

    USC proudly welcomes visitors to the new state-of-the-art Uytengsu (pronounced `wee-TENG-soo') Aquatics Center this season. Made possible by the largest gift ever by a former USC student-athlete, swimmer Fred Uytengsu, the new home of the Trojan aquatics programs officially opened on Feb. 21. The pool and diving well both were used for the 1984 Olympic Games, but the surrounding facility has an entirely new look. A new scoreboard as well as stands, overhangs, entryways and buildings with event and office space now surround the pools for an arena that also honors the historic tradition of success that Trojan aquatics exemplifies. •