Despite some questionable officiating, faulty timekeepers and a few missed opportunities, the No. 1 USC women’s water polo team played past distractions on Saturday to pick up both wins of a doubleheader against Cal State Bakersfield (10-18, 0-4 Mountain Pacific Sports Federation) and Brown (12-13, 2-2 Ivy).
The Women of Troy (18-0, 4-0 MPSF) continued their undefeated season with flair, easily dispatching the CSUB Roadrunners 19-6 in the early game and finishing the job with a 16-5 victory over the Brown Bears immediately after.
Along with adding two wins toward their overall record, USC gets to add an important MPSF win to their conference record — a win that will come in handy when trying to land the No. 1 seed in the MPSF conference tournament.
Against the Roadrunners, the Women of Troy offense came alive in blistering fashion, scoring six unanswered goals to begin the game. CSUB scored its first goal of the game midway through the second quarter, but USC responded effectively with four more goals of its own before the half was over.
After a strong first half, the Women of Troy were less sharp to begin the third quarter, coughing up multiple turnovers and suffering ejections that led to three Roadrunner power- play goals. USC was outscored 3-2 in the quarter, but the team bounced back in the fourth to put the game away for good.
Sophomore Eike Daube, who proved to be the most prolific USC scorer on the day, opened the scoring in the final quarter, slipping by a Roadrunner defender and rocketing the ball past the goalie. Sophomore Monica Vavic and junior Kaleigh Gilchrist each added goals before the Roadrunners got on the board for the first time. All told, the Women of Troy would outscore CSUB 7-2 in the quarter and ultimately win the game 19-6.
Daube was especially impressive, scoring a career-best five goals in the first game and tacking on three more against Brown.
“Eike was excellent shooting-wise,” USC head coach Jovan Vavic said. “She was eight out of nine [shooting], and it was really encouraging to see her have the best games of the year for herself.”
Against Brown, Daube led the team in scoring again, followed by juniors O’Donnell, Hannah Buckling and Olivia Cummins, each with two goals apiece. The Women of Troy featured two different goalies in the game, with junior Flora Bolonyai making four impressive saves in three periods and freshman Alegra Hueso saving a goal in the fourth quarter.
The Women of Troy swarmed on defense, allowing only 11 goals on the day, most of which came when the team was down a defender because of an ejection. The defenders swatted away most shot attempts, and Bolonyai and Hueso blocked the few that reached the cage.
“We know that our defense is the main component of our game,” senior co-captain Dominique Sardo said. “From here up until the NCAAs, we live by the motto that ‘defense wins championships.’”
But offensively, USC was even more dominant. The Women of Troy had an unrelenting attack throughout both games and were particularly efficient in power-play situations.
“The best part of our game was our 6-on-5,” Jovan Vavic said. “We shot 13 for 17 in those situations, which is very, very good.”
Usually accompanying those power-play goals was a flurry of passes, another sign of an unselfish USC offense. Junior co-captain Gilchrist was an excellent facilitator on offense, racking up 8 assists to go with her 4 goals over both games.
“Our team did a great job making extra passes, which led to easier scoring opportunities,” Monica Vavic said. “Kaleigh Gilchrist had eight assists between the two games, so having people like her able to find the open player really makes our team a much more dangerous offensive team.”
The Women of Troy will play next at Loyola Marymount on Thursday, April 4.