After having its NCAA-record winning streak snapped against Stanford earlier this month, the second-ranked women’s water polo team fell for the second time in three games on Saturday, losing to No. 1 UCLA 11-7 in Westwood.
The top-two clash began in predictably neck-and-neck fashion. The Bruins struck first thanks to Maddie Musselman, but USC struck back within minutes. Set up with a six-on-five advantage, freshman driver Denise Mammolito cannoned a shot off the crossbar before junior utility Hayley McKelvey pounced on the rebound to tie the game.
UCLA pulled ahead once more with 30 seconds left in the first quarter, but the Trojans responded promptly again with a goal from senior driver Stephania Haralabidis.
It appeared the back-and-forth would continue throughout the game, but the Bruins then scored four unanswered goals to put USC in a 6-2 hole at the half. Alexa Tielmann added UCLA’s seventh less than a minute into the third quarter to extend the lead even further before senior 2-meter Brigitta Games ended the Trojan drought with her first goal of the game.
Games’ effort would kick off a streak of three unanswered USC goals. Haralabidis added her second of the game after the Trojans killed a
shorthanded six-on-five, and freshman utility Maud Megens pulled her team within two with three minutes left in the third quarter.
It was as close as USC would come, however, as UCLA responded with a goal of its own just 20 seconds later. The Bruins then converted a power play to extend their lead back to four scores. The Trojans narrowed the margin to two in the final period thanks to second goals from Megens and Games, but the comeback bid ultimately fell short. USC was unable to cash in on two
six-on-five opportunities in the fourth quarter while the Bruins padded their lead en route to the 11-7 victory.
USC had won three in a row against the Bruins before the weekend, but the Trojans’ first defeat to their archrivals since 2015 locked UCLA into the top seed and a first-round bye at this week’s MPSF Tournament, which the Bruins will also host at the Spieker Aquatics Center. USC will enter the bracket on Friday as the third seed, taking on
sixth-seeded San Jose State at 12:45 p.m.