The USC-Stanford water polo rivalry continued Sunday evening with another rematch of last year’s NCAA championship game. This time, however, it was a championship game at the UC Irvine Invitational.
The Women of Troy went head-to-head against the Cardinal once again, hoping to exact revenge for their Stanford Invitational loss earlier this season — but they again suffered defeat, this time by a 9-6 margin.
“I feel like everyone was a bit more hesitant that just being aggressive and seeing the open shot,” said senior driver Joelle Bekhazi. “A few people were just rushing shots. We weren’t making the right decisions about shooting the ball, which didn’t really give us a big chance to succeed.”
The invitational started off well for USC (9-2, 1-0), with a victory Saturday morning against UC San Diego, 14-5. The Women of Troy used a balanced attack, as 10 different players scored goals in the early-morning meeting.
With the win, USC advanced to play San Diego State, who the Women of Troy soundly beat 11-3. A plethora of players scored during this game as well, with sophomore driver Chelsea Silvers leading the way this time with a hat trick.
Sunday morning brought about a game against crosstown rival UCLA. The Women of Troy stormed out of the gates, grabbing an 8-4 lead at the half.
The Bruins mounted a rally, however, but came up just short as USC was able to hold them off to win 9-8. The win secured themselves a spot in the Invitational Championship game.
“We played up and down,” said USC coach Jovan Vavic. “We had some really good moments and some that were not so great. We had some really good offensive goals and offensive executions, but in defense we made some mistakes.”
In previous years, USC and Stanford have had heated matches. The first tournament championship game this year, however, went in favor of the Cardinal, and this match was no different.
Unlike the earlier games in Irvine, the Women of Troy were unable to score many goals with an array of players. Rather, they were confined this game to only four scorers, with Bekhazi and senior two-meter Kristen Dronberger leading the way with two goals apiece.
“You need more people to be involved in offense,” Vavic said. “We just missed a lot of shots, which were a lot of six-on-five opportunities. We were 4-for-12 on power plays. We drew two ejections in one session and didn’t score a goal. That’s not a good percentage.”
USC’s next match is a clash against California on Saturday, March 5, at McDonalds Swim Stadium.
“We’re going to work a bit on everything this week,” Vavic said. “This group of girls has to learn how to be focused the whole game and not just for one half.”