USC Wins Fifth MPSF Title in OT

2018 MPSF Champion USC (Photo by Catharyn Hayne)
2018 MPSF Champion USC (Photo by Catharyn Hayne)
April 29, 2018

2018 MPSF CHAMPIONSHIP TOURNAMENT

Friday-Sunday, April 27-29, 2018

Host: University of California; Spieker Aquatics Complex

MPSF Championship Central

MPSF Women's Water Polo Twitter Updates

Friday, April 27

Game 1: No. 3 seed Stanford 16, No. 6 seed San Jose State 4

Game 2: No. 4 seed UCLA 14, No. 5 seed Arizona State 4

No. 1 seed USC and No. 2 seed California--Bye

Saturday, April 28

Game 3: No. 5 seed Arizona State 13, No. 6 seed San Jose State 3

Game 4: No. 1 seed USC 13, No. 4 seed UCLA 10

Game 5: No. 3 seed Stanford 12, No. 2 seed California 9

Sunday, April 29

Game 6: No. 2 seed California 8, No. 4 seed UCLA 3 (Third-Place)

Game 7: No. 1 seed USC 13, No. 3 seed Stanford 12 (OT)-- (Championship)

Third-Place Recap by Cal

BERKELEY -- The Cal women's water polo team didn't leave a bag of nails on the pool deck this time.

After head coach Coralie Simmons told the No. 3 Bears they failed to drive the nail in the coffin Saturday against No. 2 Stanford, they put the clamps down from the outset against No. 4 UCLA on Sunday and cruised to an 8-3 win in the Third Place Game of the MPSF Championships at Spieker Aquatics Complex.

The Bears (19-5) jumped out to a 4-2 lead against the Cardinal on Saturday and had a handful of other good scoring opportunities that didn't result in goals. Stanford came back for a 12-9 victory.

Sunday, Cal held UCLA scoreless for nearly 12 minutes to begin the game, jumping out to a 4-0 lead and winning easily in the last game of the season in Berkeley.

"When we jump on the other team, we want to make the game harder for the opponent," said Cal goalie Madison Tagg, who recorded eight saves. "We want to make them scared to continue the game. We want to make it so they don't want to try as hard. We can't let them sneak back into the game."

The Bears, in the middle of one of the best seasons in program history, entered the weekend with high hopes having the conference tournament at its home pool. After losing to the Cardinal, Cal had to quickly get rid of the sting of defeat and get ready to play the Bruins, who split two matches with Cal during the regular season.

It was clear from the opening sprint the Bears had refocused their efforts on taking third. Led by a handful of smothering saves from Tagg, Cal's defense minimized UCLA's scoring chances and were just opportunistic enough on offense for a convincing victory.

"After the game (Saturday), everyone was kind of quiet," Tagg said. "Going into the game today we wanted to make sure everyone was prepared and understand we are all playing for each other."

Senior Carla Carrega and sophomore Emma Wright had two goals apiece for the Bears -- Wright finished with five for the tournament. UCLA didn't score a goal until the 4:10 mark of the second quarter and added just one more in each of the remaining periods.

"It's been a bit of a roller coaster the last 24 hours," Simmons said. "We had a solid first half against Stanford. We wanted to get better this weekend. We got better in the first half against Stanford, but we didn't get better in the second half. We got better today."

The third-place finish was the best for the Bears at the MPSF Championships since they won the tournament in 2011.

The NCAA Championships Selection Show is scheduled for Monday at 5 p.m. on NCAA.com.

Championship Recap by USC

BERKELEY, CALIF. -- In a see-saw battle for MPSF supremacy, it was the top-ranked USC women's water polo team that made the winning final move to beat No. 2 Stanford 13-12 in overtime in today's MPSF Championship match in Berkeley. Tied 10 times in regulation, the Trojans and Cardinal had the score snarled even at the end of each period, locked up at 11-11 after four periods of work to bring up OT. In the first overtime stretch, USC's Hayley McKelvey punched in her fourth goal of the game before Paige Hauschild added her first to lift USC ahead 13-11. Stanford would get one to go in the next OT frame, but staunch Trojan defense thwarted the Cardinal's attempts to equalize while MPSF Player of the Year Amanda Longan made three saves in the last three minutes to help secure the title for the Trojans. Now 23-1 overall, USC has locked up an automatic berth in the coming NCAA Tournament, which the Trojans will host May 11-13 at Uytengsu Aquatics Center.

The 2018 MPSF Tournament title is USC's fifth all-time, adding to championships won in 2004, 2009, 2013 and 2016.

Stanford would steal ahead first, but the Trojans had an answer for each Cardinal goal in the opening period of play. Maud Megens drilled two goals while Hayley McKelvey punched in one to help the Trojans keep pace with the Cardinal, knotting it a 3-3 on Megens' counterattack blast just before the close of the first. It was a back-and-forth battle in the first few minutes of the second as well, as sophomore Kelsey McIntosh and Denise Mammolito answered the call to follow Stanford scores and get it to 5-5. Mammolito's goal would light a fuse for the Trojans, who had Megens earn a power play and then convert it herself to get USC its first lead of the game, up 6-5 with 4:45 on the clock in the second. Next it was McKelvey who zipped in a score to pad USC's lead to 7-5, although the Cardinal would fire right back with two 6-on-5 finishes to level it 7-7 by halftime.

Stanford sneaked back into the lead with a score three minutes into the second half before Megens and McKelvey teamed up again for the Trojans. McKelvey popped it out to Megens for a searing skipper that pulled it even again, and then Megens found McKelvey on a USC 6-on-5 to nudge the Trojans back on top, up 9-8. Again, Stanford found an equalizer, and it was 9-9 going into the fourth. That frame unfurled much like the third had, as Stanford got the early edge again, only to see USC pin up back-to-back goals to get the lead -- this time on a well-placed strike from McIntosh and then turn-and-fire from Brianna Daboub for an 11-10 USC advantage with 3:06 to go in regulation. Stanford leveled it for the 10th time next, and then USC's defense would hold its ground the rest of the way to bring up overtime.

In USC's first overtime game of the year, the Trojans were focused and calm, shutting down the Cardinal while coming up with huge goals from McKelvey and Paige Hauschild to work out to a 13-11 lead. In the second OT, Longan opened up with two enormous saves to keep the Cardinal at bay. Stanford would manage a goal with 52 seconds left, but the Trojans regained control and locked away the win, the title and the free ticket to the NCAA Tournament with the 13-12 decision.

USC now awaits word on the entirety of the 2018 NCAA bracket, which will be revealed in the NCAA Selection Show at 5 p.m. tomorrow (April 30) at ncaa.com. The Trojans will be making their 15th consecutive appearance in the NCAA tourney as USC looks to add a sixth national championship to the women's trophy case at Troy.