Women of Troy set to host LMU in conference battle

After suffering a heartbreaking 9-5 loss last week to Stanford in a 2013 National Championship rematch, snapping a 27-game winning streak dating back to last season, the USC women’s water polo team wasted no time starting a new winning streak on Sunday.

O Captain! · Senior Kaleigh Gilchrist scored two goals against UC Irvine on Sunday, enough to move her up to No. 13 on USC’s all-time scoring list. - Corey Marquetti | Daily Trojan

O Captain! · Senior Kaleigh Gilchrist scored two goals against UC Irvine on Sunday, enough to move her up to No. 13 on USC’s all-time scoring list. – Corey Marquetti | Daily Trojan

The No. 2 Women of Troy (21-1, 4-1 MPSF) jumped back into the pool in the comforts of the Uytengsu Aquatics Center against No. 6 UC Irvine, coming away with a 16-5 victory. The Anteaters (17-7) entered the contest on a seven-game winning streak of their own that was brought to a sudden halt.

After trading goals early on, the Cardinal and Gold were able to extend a 4-2 first quarter lead into a 10-2 halftime advantage. Senior two-meter Colleen O’Donnell tallied a first-half hat trick to lead the Women of Troy into intermission.

Unlike the second period, the Anteaters thwarted the USC attack to begin the third quarter. Both teams registered three goals in the eight-minute period, bringing the score to 13-5. The fourth period, though, was no contest for the Women of Troy.

In the quarter, junior two-meter Eike Daube tallied a career-high fifth goal of the match and junior driver Monica Vavic picked up a hat trick of her own, propelling her to sole possession of fifth place in scoring in program history. The Women of Troy polished off the visiting UCI bunch, 16-5.

“It’s great to see Eike step up as a junior,” said senior captain Kaleigh Gilchrist. “We saw sparks of it freshman and sophomore year, and then for her to take on a completely different role this year is awesome because we need as many people as possible.”

Though the offense proved dominant across the board, it was the stellar play on the defensive end of the pool that kept the Women of Troy ahead. The dynamic defense blanked the Anteaters on the scoreboard in both the second and final quarter. Anchoring the defensive unit was senior goalie Flora Bolonyai, who recorded 13 saves.

“Flora has been our team’s best player, in my opinion,” said Gilchrist, who punched in two goals in the victory. “To have someone that great with that much experience in the cage is awesome.”

The USC victory on Sunday brings the overall series record against UCI to an astonishing 22-3.

“It’s just really important to bounce back after a tough loss and get refocused and realize that we still have a lot of work to do in a short amount of time,” Gilchrist said. “I think that we were able to do that and prove it against UCI. We just want to keep the momentum alive after the UCI win.”

The Women of Troy now have their sights on extending this new win streak as they prepare to face off against No. 11 Loyola Marymount (17-10) on Thursday afternoon at the Uytengsu Aquatics Center.

The Lions enter the match winning four of their last five games, with the sole loss coming at the hands of a San Diego State goal with 0.2 seconds remaining on the clock. With Loyola hungry to avenge the tough loss, the Women of Troy are prepared for a grueling game.

“We still have a lot of areas to work on so we will just be focusing on that in practice,” Gilchrist said. “We only have two practices before the LMU game so we need to stay really focused and hopefully execute on Thursday.”

Tomorrow’s game is the second-to-last regular season contest before USC plays host to the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation tournament. The game is slated to start at 4:30 p.m. and will be broadcast on the Pac-12 Networks.