On Friday afternoon it was 68 degrees with clear skies in Los Angeles as the Marist Women’s Water Polo team took on top-ranked University of Southern California in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. The nice weather was about all that went right for Marist. USC defeated the Red Foxes 24-5 to advance to the semifinals of the NCAA tournament at the Spieker Aquatics Center.
“The greatest takeaway is just what it took for us to get here,” Marist Head Coach Chris Vidale said. “This is our tenth game, with our first loss and it comes from the number one team in the nation so it’s nothing to be upset about.”
The sprint in the pool began the game and was won by Denise Mammolito of USC, beating Marist’s Kaylee Brard to the ball. Thirty seconds into the game, USC swam the ball down the pool, and Maud Megens scored, giving the Trojans a 1-0 lead. After a Marist penalty and turnover, USC’s Megens scored her second goal of the game with the help of Grace Tehaney.
“There was a point when we didn’t even know if we were going to have a season so just being able to come out here and play the top team in the nation is a great feeling,” Marist’s Justine Castro said. “It’s an amazing feeling because we put in a lot of hard work to get where we are today.”
With just over 5 minutes left in the first period, USC’s Julia Janov pushed the ball down the pool and fired a shot to the back of the goal. After an exclusion call on USC, Shinae Carrington put Marist on the board with the help of Kathryn McCullough.
USC did not take long to answer, with Verica Bakoc scoring to make it 4-1. With four minutes left in the first period, Marist’s Fallon Burnworth was whistled for an exclusion. With the extra attacker, Megens added another score.
USC was on the attack again when the Red Foxes took possession of the ball. Castro swam close to the net and scored on a 6-on-5. Following the goal, an exclusion was called on Castro and USC’s Bayley Weber scored on the power play. The first period ended with the Trojans leading 7-3.
At the start of the second period, USC’s Kari Jensen wins the sprint against Marist’s Kaylee Brard. The Trojans dominated possession throughout the second period of play.
The first four goals of the second period went to USC, helping them open an 11-3 lead over the Red Foxes. With four minutes left in the second period, Vidale called a timeout for the Red Foxes to regroup. After a USC turnover and penalty, Justine Castro deposited a shot in the goal.
“I’m a graduate student, but everyone in the grades below me is taking in these experiences and learning along the way, Justine Castro said. “It’s bittersweet and as rough as it was, I was able to get two goals past the goalies.”
Within the next three minutes of play, USC was able to stay in the Red Foxes zone of the pool and scored three more goals. USC’s Bayley Weber put the final goal of the first half in the net, with an assist from Sophia Lucas, giving them a 10 point lead at the end of the second period with a score of 14-4.
“The offensive performance today was very stable and I’m very proud of the team because there were a lot of unselfish plays,” USC Head Coach Marko Pintaric said. “We play water polo by playing one game at a time and they respect everyone.”
To start the third period, USC took their starting goalie, Holly Parker, out of the net and put
Carolyne Stern in the game. The Red Foxes also switched goalies with Emily Hilliard assuming the position in the goal, replacing Marina Hyham.
In a period of multiple Marist turnovers and unsuccessful shots, USC was able to capitalize on their possession and scored six goals in the third period. With two penalties toward the end of the third period, USC’s Weber shot and scored, assisted by Bakoc. The period ended with the Trojans leading 20-4.
Marist was able to get multiple shots on goal, but none got past USC’s goalie Carolyne Stern. USC took possession of the ball and drove down the pool where Julia Janov scored with the assist of Sabrina Garabet.
With four minutes left in the final period, USC’s Randi Reinhardt was whistled for a penalty foul on India Alter. With a penalty shot, Marist’s Viktoria Orlova scores her team’s final goal of the season, making the score 21-5 for USC.
“With this only being the tenth game, it’s hard to be up against a team like that,” Vidale said. “It’s still just an honor to compete and it keeps us hungry to want to come back. Every goal we earned today really had to be earned.”
The Red Foxes will look to carry the momentum from a successful 2021 into next season.
Edited by Jonathan Kinane
Photo from Marist Athletics