No. 1 USC women’s water polo fell 9-8 to No. 2 Stanford in its first loss of the 2019 season Saturday afternoon at Uytengsu Aquatics Center.
This was the Cardinal’s biggest win of the season, snapping USC’s 37-game winning streak. Stanford advanced to 15-1 on the season, while USC fell to 20-1.
USC started the game strong, shutting out the Cardinal in the first period with freshman 2-meter Tilly Kearns scoring 2 goals. Junior driver Kelsey McIntosh and senior driver Courtney Fahey had 2 goals and 1 goal, respectively.
The Trojans entered the second half with a 5-2 lead, but the power dynamic began to level out when both sides scored 2 points in the third period. Although the Trojans entered the final period with a 3-point lead, the Cardinal found their scoring momentum and brought the score up to 8-7 for their first lead of the game. Junior driver Denise Mammolito secured the final goal of regulation play with 1:24 left to tie the score, which sent the game into overtime.
Despite a save by senior goalie Amanda Longan, one of her 15 for the game, Stanford managed to net 1 goal in overtime, and USC could not answer back for a final score of 9-8.
Stanford junior driver Makenzie Fischer had 3 goals while freshman driver Ryann Neushul and sophomore driver Sarah Klass scored 2 goals each to lead the Cardinal on offense. Redshirt sophomore goalkeeper Emalia Eichelberger had 11 saves on the day to anchor their defense.
This was the Trojans’ first home game since former head coach Jovan Vavic was fired last month for his alleged involvement in the college admissions bribery scheme.
“Our program is about discipline and hard work, and I have the best girls in the world,” interim head coach Casey Moon told the Los Angeles Times last week. “They understand what this program stands for, and it helps that I have a lot of veterans returning, so they can reiterate what the makeup of our team is and the staples we expect out of each player.”
Moon continued to credit his veteran players for rising to the occasion in the wake of the announcement.
“Their leadership and what we’ve been preaching as a coaching staff [and] as a program to them, they just kind of rallied around it,” Moon said. “What happened was out of their control. But I think the mood of the team was great. I think they have a little chip on their shoulder.”
Despite the major change, the Trojans are doing their best to adjust.
“The team is doing remarkably well,” Fahey said in a video released by USC Athletics on Tuesday. “I think that we’re all a really strong group of girls, and it’s really cool to see how this program has taught us about resilience, and how resilient every single one of the girls on this team really are.”
Although the Trojans are no longer perfect on the season, their ultimate goal remains winning a national championship.
“I think we trust our coaches and our teammates enough to use the adversity that we’ve had to overcome recently, and are still overcoming, to kind of use it as fuel to our fire, to make it even more important now that we win a national title than ever before,” Longan said in the video.
The Trojans travel north next week to take on Cal at Spieker Aquatics Complex. The conference match begins Saturday at 1:30 p.m.