On an emotional Senior Day, the USC women’s water polo squad soundly defeated California 10-7 in a match not as close as the final score would indicate.
The No. 3 Women of Troy (17-3, 4-1) used a flurry of three goals in 80 seconds midway through the second quarter to take a 5-2 lead, and never looked back against the No. 5 Bears (16-6, 3-2).
“Our plan is to always do the little things right,” USC assistant coach Casey Moon said.
“[You] keep your head on a swivel and focus on the fundamentals, and you’ll win out.”
Junior driver Dominique Sardo led the scoring for the Women of Troy with her second hat trick of the season, while sophomore two-meters Kaleigh Gilchrist and Colleen O’Donnell each contributed two goals to the scoring effort.
Both teams started slow, with the Women of Troy taking a 2-1 lead after junior two-meter Nicolina McCall nailed a lob shot in the upper left corner two seconds before the end of the first quarter. After Cal tied the score two minutes into the second quarter, USC’s offense changed gears and rolled off three straight goals, two by Sardo, and added another point on a long-distance skip shot by freshman driver Monica Vavic to take a 6-3 lead at halftime. Cal would not get any closer than this.
“We came together as a team, saw our open players and hit them perfectly,” senior captain and driver Nadia Dan said.
The team outscored Cal 3-1 in the third quarter, ending the quarter with a lob shot goal by Sardo to complete her hat trick, and took a 9-4 lead heading into the final quarter. In the fourth, O’Donnell hit a long shot to make the score 10-4.
Following this, Cal reeled off three straight goals, capped by utility Remington Price’s close-range strike with 12 seconds to go.
“We did a good job of playing defense in practice all week and it showed in the match, but we still need to focus on our transition defense and need to always be moving in the right direction,” Dan said.
Before the match, USC honored seniors Dan, utility Kara-Leigh Huse and goalie Morgan Vickers with bouquets and a ceremony for Senior Day. While this year’s class has only three seniors, they will leave behind a legacy of being crucial in developing team chemistry and changing the squad from just a team into a family.
“It’s bittersweet,” Dan said. “I can’t believe it’s over”.
The Women of Troy’s season, however, is not. The squad travels north next weekend to take on San Jose State and Stanford, and then will close out the regular season at home against Cal State Bakersfield on April 20.