Women’s water polo racks up four wins at Triton Invitational

Jake Casino | Daily Trojan

The No. 2 USC women’s water polo team (14-0) took care of business in La Jolla over the weekend, notching four solid wins to take home the 2017 Triton Invitational crown and remain undefeated on the season.

The tournament was hosted by UC San Diego and featured 16 teams, 13 of which were ranked in the CWPA Top 25. To open up group play on Saturday, USC took on the Santa Clara Broncos in an early morning tilt. The Trojans ran out to a 10-2 advantage at the half thanks to some balanced scoring and kept the opposition scoreless the rest of the game to secure the 18-2 victory.

Three freshmen led the way as utility Maud Megens notched a career-high five goals, while drivers Denise Mammolito and Elise Stein added two goals each. In total, 10 different players made their way into the scoring column, while sophomore goalie Amanda Longan finished with seven saves.

A few hours later, the Trojans took on No. 17 San Diego State in a rematch of last week’s home opener. After holding a 5-1 lead in the first frame, USC went on to score 12 more goals and allowed just three en route to the 17-4 victory over the Aztecs. Once again, 10 different scorers saw action in the afternoon, led by senior two-meter Brigitta Games and senior driver Stephania Haralabidis’ hat tricks. Junior goalie Victoria Chamorro tallied seven saves in three periods of work in the cage and in total, USC outscored both of its opponents on Saturday by a 35-6 margin.

A solid outing in group play put USC into the semifinals of the tournament, where they matched up against No. 6-ranked Michigan. This was also a rematch of an earlier game this season in which the Trojans defeated the Wolverines 11-3 in their season opener, but once again USC came out victorious.

Michigan put up more of a fight in this contest, though, as they held USC to under double-digit scoring for just the first time this season. The Wolverines kept it close at the half, trailing by two goals, but the Trojans came up big and punched in five more goals to cap the 9-5 win. Megens and Haralabidis scored two goals apiece and Longan hauled in eight saves to propel USC into the finals of the Triton Invitational, where they squared off against fellow MPSF foe Arizona State.

It was a low-scoring affair to start the match against the No. 5-ranked Sun Devils, as USC held just a 3-1 lead after two periods. However, the Trojans turned on the jets after the half and hit the back of the net nine more times, allowing just one goal the rest of the way to sew up the 12-2 victory and capture the tournament title.

Haralabidis recorded another hat trick to up her total to 10 goals on the weekend, while freshman driver Kelsey McIntosh and junior utility Hayley McKelvey tossed in two goals each. Chamorro put up 12 big saves in goal for the Trojans, shutting out the Sun Devils in the final period to put a stamp on USC’s winning weekend.

While the Trojans have yet to be pushed to the brink in 2017, Haralabidis noted that these types of matchups help the Trojans identify areas for improvement as the season progresses.

“During these games, we work on what it is that we need to do to perform better,” Haralabidis said. “Even though it’s not some of the toughest competition out there, we’re preparing ourselves for the bigger ones that we’ll face in the MPSF and in the future. We always go in with the mentality that it’s a strong team though, so we just have to push even harder in order for us to get better.”

The Trojans will now prepare for another set of road games when they participate in the UC Irvine Invitational in two weeks (Feb. 24-26) in Irvine, Calif.