USC women’s water polo’s winning streak continues

The top-ranked USC women’s water polo team ended March on a tear, pouring on the goals to take down visiting No. 14 San Jose State 19-3 and No. 18 Hartwick 21-5 at the Uytengsu Aquatics Center on Saturday to remain perfect on the season and extend their national women’s record winning streak to 51 matches in a row.

USC (24-0, 2-0 MPSF) was led by senior 2-meter Brigitta Games, who had a career scoring day in the pool. The All-American recorded a whopping 11 goals in just two games, highlighted by a career-high seven-goal outburst against San Jose State in the first match and a four-goal outing against Hartwick in the second. The Trojans also played some lockdown defense to hold both opponents scoreless in the second half of each game, as all three USC goalies saw time in the cage and allowed a combined total of just eight goals. All in all, USC outscored its opponents by a 40-8 margin.

In the conference match against San Jose State, Games was nearly unstoppable from 2-meters, scoring four goals in a row early while recording a career-high five goals by halftime to give USC the 10-3 advantage. Two more strikes by Games would get past the Spartan goalie in the second half, while USC’s own netminders put the clamps down on the Spartan offense and held them scoreless the rest of the way. Junior Victória Chamorro, who made the start in goal, finished with four saves, while freshman Holly Parker came in relief in the fourth period and recorded two stops to help USC secure the 19-3 win.

In addition to Games’ seven goals, senior driver Stephania Haralabidis punched in four goals while freshman driver Denise Mammolito, freshman utility Maud Megens and senior driver Ioanna Haralabidis each scored twice. Junior utility Hayley McKelvey and sophomore driver Courtney Fahey added one goal apiece as the Trojans outshot San Jose State, 33-18. With the win, USC ended the Spartans’ two-match winning streak and reached 50 games in their own win streak.

Once that match was over, USC faced off against No. 18 Hartwick in a nonconference bout. The Hawks kept it close in the first period by trading early scores, but USC pushed ahead to lead 6-3 at the end of the frame. On a man-up advantage early in the second period, Stephania Haralabidis scored the Trojans’ 10th goal, one that would move her up to No. 2 all-time in career scoring at USC.

One final strike with 10 seconds left before the half by junior driver Brianna Daboub allowed the Trojans to carve out a 14-5 advantage and they never looked back, scoring seven more goals and holding Hartwick scoreless to finish with the 21-5 victory. Games tallied four goals, while Stephania Haralabidis and Megens scored three each. The swarming USC defense was also too much for the Hawks to handle, as McKelvey recorded a game-high five steals and sophomore goalkeeper Amanda Longan notched 10 saves in just three periods.

While the Spartans and the Hawks don’t pose quite the same threat as the likes of Stanford and UCLA do, Trojan head coach Jovan Vavic has instilled a high level of discipline and accountability that his players, like Ioanna Haralabidis, have responded well to.

“We have the benefit of a coach like Jovan, who always keeps us on edge,” Haralabidis said. “He pushes us hard every single day in practice and in games and tells us that even though they might not be the best team out there this season, we still have to respect them and perform well in order to win. We like when he pushes us like that because in the end, it makes us stronger players.”

USC will now get to stay in its home waters for the back end of a five-game home stand as they host No. 6 Arizona State in an MPSF conference match on Saturday. The battle with the Sun Devils will begin at 12:30 p.m. at the Uytengsu Aquatics Center and will be broadcast live on Pac-12 Network.