The USC women’s water polo team enjoyed its Senior Night festivities with a dominant 11-5 win over the UCLA Bruins. The mood at the Uytengsu Aquatics Center on Saturday night was bittersweet as the parade of departing senior standouts displayed just the kind of talent that the squad would soon be missing in the coming weeks. This sentiment, however, was cut short as the Women of Troy got off to a hot start over the Bruins.
Prior to this weekend’s rivalry game, the Trojans and Bruins had faced off once before this season. In the mid-February championship match of the Triton Invitational in San Diego, USC managed to outlast UCLA by a final margin of 6-4. The Trojans didn’t think that victory had truly been secured until the final whistle blew, despite strong performances by junior goaltender Amanda Longan and senior driver Brianna Daboub.
“It comes down to energy,” senior utility Hayley McKelvey of the team’s mentality heading into the crosstown rematch. “Our girls have been really good about focusing on the positives and letting that influence the rest of our game.”
Saturday night was a much different matchup. Playing in front of an incredibly rowdy home crowd and with the Trojan Marching Band out in full force, it was clear that the team was feeding off of the energy from the stands. The team was already in peak performance with its 10-game winning streak over the likes of Stanford and Cal indicating its prowess. However, USC truly came to life in the regular season finale.
“It was about focusing on the next play … what our offense would do the next possession not what [else] was going on,” McKelvey said.
From the opening whistle, the Women of Troy came out active and firing on the offensive side against the Bruins. It took the squad under four minutes to draw first blood as a fast break from junior driver Courtney Fahey set up sophomore utility Maud Megens for an easy finish on net.
This standard of play was replicated throughout most of the first half as the Trojans continued to press UCLA’s zone and maintain the aggressive offensive push. Megens would pick up her second score of the night after Daboub drew a penalty shot while McKelvey notched a first-half hat trick, giving USC a solid 5-1 lead at the break.
McKelvey would finish the game with an impressive 5 scores, granting her 100 total goals in her USC career. But what is more impressive were the various ways in which she was able to find the back of the net. From power plays and quick passes to unbelievable shots that were lofted high over the UCLA keeper’s head or ricocheted in hard off the crossbar, McKelvey continued to raise the bar for each goal she scored on the night.
In the third quarter, the Trojans sustained their only real adversity of the night when UCLA picked up back-to-back scores within a span of under 30 seconds to cut the 4-goal halftime lead down to just 2 scores. Clearly, USC felt and responded well to the pressure by scoring 4 unanswered goals before the third period ended, leaving an insurmountable 9-3 scoreline on the board.
In the fourth, USC would again be efficient in their domination of the Bruins and finish off the night with an impressive 11-5 victory. While Longan stood tall in net, with a magnificent five-save performance, head coach Jovan Vavic decided to rotate through the goaltender depth. To start the fourth quarter, senior Victória Chamorro was put in net where she stopped two of three Bruin chances. As time ran down, however, Chamorro was pulled in favor of senior netminder Nicola Gonzales. Finishing off the rivalry win put a great ending on what has proven to be a rather magical season for the Women of Troy.
This victory, as well as the 10 consecutive wins that preceded it, will surely propel the team forward as it prepares for the MPSF Tournament this weekend. With USC having guaranteed a bye in the first round, it will be a waiting game to see what team the Trojans will play in their first match.
“We just want to keep our momentum going,” freshman driver Paige Hauschild said. “The regular season went better than we could’ve expected … ultimately [the focus is] to win the national championship.”