Congrats to ROCK ATHLETE Avery Peterson and her USC Waterpolo teammates on winning the national championship.
USC Captures 2016 NCAA Championship In Epic Finish
WESTWOOD, CALIF. — In the matter of seconds, USC’s two-goal lead had evaporated. Defending NCAA champ Stanford had shown its championship savvy with back-to-back strikes to level the 2016 National Collegiate Women’s Water Polo title match with 11 seconds to go. As it turned, out, 11 seconds was plenty to time for the Trojans. On the attack and hungry to capture its fifth national championship, USC put game-winning responsibility into the deft left hand of Stephania Haralabidis. The junior stepped right up and sizzled in the score from near half-tank, taking her Trojans to an 8-7 advantage with just 6 ticks to go. From there, it was up to the sure-handed freshman goalieAmanda Longan to haul in the Cardinal’s last-ditch effort. Longan took care of it, and a hard-earned celebration ensued for the Women of Troy. The 8-7 victory over Stanford secured USC’s second undefeated season in program history while capturing its fifth national championship. With a perfect 26-0 record, the USC women have chalked up the university’s 125th all-time national championship, and the 102nd NCAA team title in history.
After punching up five huge goals for the Trojans in the NCAA final, Stephania Haralabidis was named the NCAA Tournament MVP, joined on the NCAA All-Tournament First Team by fellow TrojansBrigitta Games and Ioanna Haralabidis. USC sophomore Brianna Daboub was named to the NCAA All-Tournament Second Team.
The championship is head coach Jovan Vavic’s fifth national championship on the women’s side, making it a grand total of 14 national titles between the men’s and women’s programs combined. He remains the winningest head coach in USC history while now boasting four undefeated seasons in his time at the helm of the Trojan water polo programs — two with the men and two with the women.
In a rematch of the 2013 NCAA Championship, in which the Trojans beat the Cardinal in a triple sudden-death showdown, the 2016 title match presented another nail-biting battle between USC and Stanford. This time, USC was able to sidestep overtime action with a heart-stopping finish from the hands of Stephania Haralabidis. It was a long and wild path to that final winner, though.
Brianna Daboub would set the Trojans up with an early advantage in earning a 5-meter penalty shot for USC. Stephania Haralabidis stepped up and converted for the 1-0 USC advantage, but Stanford would strike right back. The Cardinal was successful in earning 6-on-5 advantages in the game and would make good on its first of seven such chances with a blast that equalized things at 1-1 midway through the first frame. USC goalie Amanda Longan would shut the door on Stanford’s next power play opportunity, helping to keep it at a 1-1 snarl after on period of play.
In the second, Nikki Stansfield came up with a clutch takeaway as teams pulled even on another Stanford power play, prompting Haralabidis to turn up for a sizzling crosscage bar-in skipper that nudged USC ahead 2-1. USC’s first power play of the game would see Brigitta Games earn the advantage and then finish it off in taking a pass from Ioanna Haralabidis for the slam that tugged USC ahead by two, up 3-1. In the final seconds of the half, however, Stanford would close out another 6-on-5 series to close the gap back to one, leaving USC with a 3-2 lead at halftime.
Once more, Stanford made the most of a power play setup to equalize again in the third. A power play finish had it tied up at 3-3 before Stephania Haralabidis pinned up back-to-back scores. Games got the Trojans up again on a 6-on-5, and Haralabidis slotted it to get USC ahead 4-3. The USC defense made a stand next, with Hayley McKelvey nabbing a key steal before Haralabidis threw up a timely field block. Avery Peterson and Melissa Bergesen tag-teamed for a takeaway at two-meters soon after, and then Daboub earned another ejection for the Trojan cause. Enter Haralabidis again. The lefty rifled in a crosscage bullet for a 5-3 USC lead just 5 seconds away from the buzzer, and USC would carry that two-goal advantage into the fourth frame.
That’s where the game’s intensity ratcheted up even higher. Another steal by McKelvey was followed by another defensive takeaway by Peterson. USC’s stingy defense would get cracked, however, by a well-placed lob by the Cardinal to close the gap back to one, making it 5-4 Trojans with 5:06 on the clock. Games would made a stand next for the Trojans, taking a pass, turning and firing crosscage for a 6-4 USC edge just 20 seconds later. Again, Stanford had an answer, converting on another 6-on-5 to carve the USC lead back down to one. After a Haralabidis interception and another save from Longan, USC would look to ice the game when Haralabidis found Daboub for a ripper that took the Trojans to a 7-5 lead with just 52 seconds left in regulation.
That two-goal lead was anything but safe with the Cardinal in the pool, though. Stanford struck right back with a quick goal just five seconds later. A Stanford save next would feed into the the Cardinal offense, where the game was locked up for the third time. That blast leveled the score at 7-7 with just 11 seconds on the clock, hinting at an overtime game on the horizon. That’s where USC made its move. As time ticked down, Daboub worked the ball to Stephania Haralabidis just across mid-pool. The Cutino Award finalist and MPSF Player of the Year was ready to deliver, lacing a perfectly placed rocket to the top corner of the cage to tug USC ahead 8-7 with just six seconds remaining. Stanford’s long-range attempt at an equalizer was eaten up by USC goalie Longan just before the buzzer sounded, leaving the Trojans with the ball, the NCAA championship and the celebration of an undefeated 2016 season.
2016 NATIONAL COLLEGIATE WOMEN’S WATER POLO CHAMPIONSHIPS (Westwood, Calif.)
NCAA CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
USC 8, Stanford 7
May 15, 2016 – Spieker Aquatics Complex (Westwood, Calif.) USC 1 – 2 – 2 – 3 = 8
STAN 1 – 1 – 1 – 4 = 7
SAVES: Amanda Longan (USC) 9, Julia Hermann (STAN) 11.