On a sunny Saturday afternoon at the Uytengsu Aquatics Center, the No. 1 USC women’s water polo team was able to overcome some early offensive woes to take charge in the second half and earn a gritty 11-4 win over conference foe No. 4 Arizona State. With the victory, USC maintains its unblemished 25-0 overall record and improves to 3-0 in MPSF play, while Arizona State falls to 18-5 and 2-2 in conference.
The Trojan offense was stagnant to begin the game, and the Sun Devils were able to capitalize. Though freshman utility Maud Megens skipped a shot past Arizona State goalie Mia Rycraw to put USC on the board first, the visitors scored twice to take the 2-1 advantage at the end of the first quarter. The Trojans did find some footing in the second, however, as scores from senior
2-meter Avery Peterson, Megens and junior utility Hayley McKelvey — and solid defending in the cage by sophomore goalkeeper Amanda Longan — put USC ahead 4-2 by halftime.
In the third period, senior driver Ioanna Haralabidis took a nice feed from McKelvey to score USC’s fourth-straight goal, and though the Sun Devils would answer with a goal of their own, the score was 5-3 in favor of USC heading into the fourth and final frame. In the end, USC’s depth proved to be too much for Arizona State to handle, as the home team was able to turn on the jets and finally pull away from the visitors thanks to goals by Haralabidis, senior 2-meter Brigitta Games and freshman driver Kelsey McIntosh.
Senior driver Stephania Haralabidis’ late strike would put USC into double digits with the team’s tenth goal of the day, and a big save by Longan, her eighth, would seal the victory. In all, Arizona State was outscored 6-1 in the final frame, as USC went on to secure the 11-4 win.
Seven Trojans scored on the day, led by MPSF Newcomer of the Week Megens’ two goals and three assists. In addition, reigning MPSF Player of the Week Games, Ioanna Haralabidis and McKelvey also scored twice, while McIntosh and Stephania Haralabidis added one goal apiece. Though the scoreboard may have shown a blowout win for USC, the Trojans were certainly tested throughout the game and were forced to dig deep in order to pull out the victory.
“I think we started off a little slow, and we just were not on the same page,” McKelvey said. “But after the second quarter, we really came together and decided that we needed to change this, and it just clicked from then on.”
USC now extends its series lead to 26-2 all-time against the Sun Devils, with wins in each of the programs’ last six meetings. More importantly, the nation’s top team also extended its record-winning streak to 52 matches in a row.
Next up for USC will be a match against conference rival No. 2 Stanford on Saturday at the Uytengsu Aquatics Center. The Trojans will host the Cardinal in a nationally televised battle on the Pac-12 Network, set for 5 p.m. with major postseason implications on the line. USC and Stanford are two of three undefeated teams in the conference (UCLA being the third), and a victory over the Cardinal this weekend would give the Trojans great position heading into the final two games of the season.
USC will also honor its seven seniors in a Senior Day ceremony prior to the start of the match.