USC falters against Stanford, loses 11-9 Sunday

Redshirt junior driver Paige Hauschild looks to shoot the ball during USC’s 9-7 victory against UCLA April 16.
Redshirt junior driver Paige Hauschild looks to shoot the ball during USC’s 9-7 victory against UCLA April 16. Hauschild had four goals in the Trojans’ 11-9 loss against Stanford Saturday in the MPSF Championship game. (Eli Masket | Daily Trojan)

The No. 1 ranked Trojans lost in the MPSF conference tournament final 11-9 last weekend to familiar foe No. 2 Stanford. 

The Cardinal beat USC for the second time this season and denied USC a fourth consecutive MPSF title. This was the Trojans’ first loss in nearly two months, as their eight-game winning streak comes to a close.

USC started the weekend off promisingly with a convincing 10-8 win against No. 6 UC Berkeley in the semi final match. The Trojans allowed 4 goals on the Golden Bears’ first four possessions of the game and then held them to that same amount for the final 27 minutes of play. 

Redshirt sophomore driver Alejandra Aznar led the way for USC as she totaled 3 goals and 2 assists in the contest. Aznar currently sits tied for third in the MPSF with 1.8 assists per game on the season.

After the strong showing Saturday, the Trojans had high hopes for the final against Stanford Sunday. However, USC fell behind early, and after a yellow card was shown to Head Coach Marko Pintaric, the Trojans went behind 6-3 right before halftime. 

It was looking grim for USC, but after halftime, the team showed why they are ranked as the No. 1 team in the country. The Trojans would go on a 4-1 run and retake the lead early in the fourth quarter. Unfortunately, USC could not stop Stanford’s attack as it finished off the game and any comeback hopes the Trojans had.

It was a valiant effort by USC, especially for redshirt junior driver Paige Hauschild, who tallied 4 goals in the contest. She commended the team’s tight defense in the third period.

“We really wanted to focus on our defensive mistakes that we made in the second quarter … and really try to fix those in the second half,” said Hauschild in an interview with the Daily Trojan. “We didn’t play like ourselves in the second quarter, and we wanted to bounce back from that as much as we could. It always starts with defense, so we came out in the second half with a lot of energy.”

Overall, the game was very physical, especially for redshirt sophomore 2-meter Tilly Kearns. Kearns drew 7 exclusions throughout the game and earned 2 penalty shots. 

The newly awarded All-MPSF first-team member also picked up 3 goals and 2 steals in the contest.

“That was definitely one of the more physical games I’ve played … but it was great that I was able to open up those opportunities,” Kearns said. “I think it put them on the backfoot and we hit them hard and made them react.” 

Despite the loss, USC has secured an at-large bid in the NCAA tournament. In two weeks, Pintaric hopes to lead the Trojans to their second consecutive national championship. 

Pintaric, who repeated as MPSF head coach of the year earlier this week, said he is preparing the team intensely for the upcoming tournament.

“We’re looking forward to what’s to come, and I’m very proud of the way they play, everybody in the pool. Mistakes were made … but everybody makes mistakes and you learn from it,” Pintaric said. “Sleep, eat, study and compete. That’s the next two weeks for us and that’s it, so that’s going to be the key for us.”

The Trojans’ next time competing in the pool will be as the No. 2 overall seed in the NCAA tournament when they take on Fresno State May 6.