This past weekend, the No. 2 USC women’s water polo team had its first big chance to prove itscapability in the pool. It was clear that the girls put in a solid performance in what some would call a repeat match of last year NCAA championship game, where USC prevailed 10-9. However, this time the tables turned and the Women of Troy came in close second to No. 1 Stanford after a sudden death overtime loss of 10-9 in the championship game.
“It’s early in the season. We have so many new faces and we didn’t know what we were going to do and how we were going to look, especially with the new goalie. Patricia Jansco has been injured, and everything was really uncertain for us” said coach Jovan Vavic.
The invitational started out well for the Trojans on Saturday. The team trounced No. 15 Indiana with a 9-1 victory, and beat crosstown rival No. 4 UCLA 10-8. Junior driver Nadia Dan stepped up on Saturday, scoring three goals in each game, and senior two-meter Kristen Dronberger continued to prove herself as a threat with one goal against Indiana and three against UCLA.
The only thing standing in the way of the championship game at that point was No. 5 Hawaii. Nadia Dan stepped up once again and scored another hat trick, leading the Trojans to a 9-7 victory over the Rainbow Wahine. Then came their chance to shine and prove themselves against the host Cardinal.
The game was heated and tense the entire way, with Dronberger and freshman two-meter Madeline Rosenthal leading the way for the Trojans. Dronberger had the biggest game of all, scoring four goals, while Rosenthal had two.
The Women of Troy put up a fight, staying close the entire game to force it into sudden death. Although much of the sudden death time span was scoreless, all that mattered was Stanford’s close range strike that occurred with about 25 seconds left.
Although the Women of Troy came in second place at Stanford, it is still early in the season to make assumptions about how the team will fair. Many players showed that they were huge threats to look out for, including Dronberger, Dan and rookie goalie Flora Bolonyai.
This tournament, however, has proven to the team that they can rise to any challenge. This is especially important for the team newcomers, including Bolonyai, who played goalie this entire tournament coming in as a freshman.
“This is huge for our rookies” Vavic said. “As the season goes on, they will be able to look back on this and understand that they were ready to play. Many times, you just question your abilities. Now, they will be able to see that they can actually play well. It’s a huge confidence booster.”
One thing is for sure: next time Stanford comes around, the team will be prepared. Seeing Stanford at the UC Irvine Invitational in two weeks is a possibility, as well. But right now, the team just wants to focus on the games that are directly in front of them in order to build a stronger team.
“The girls really showed they had a lot of heart. Our younger players stepped it up, and our returning players were outstanding. ” Vavic said.