BOSTON, Massachusetts, May 13. AFTER 45 minutes, 47 seconds of action, USC's Anni Espar scored the winning goal in the third sudden-death overtime period of the championship game at the NCAA Women's Water Polo Championships May 10-12 at Harvard University. Espar's goal gave the USC Trojans a 10-9 victory over the Stanford Cardinal, earning them their fourth NCAA title and the first since 2010.
UCLA grabbed third place with their 13-8 victory over Hawai'i. Princeton overcame multiple-goal deficits to earn a 12-10 victory over UC San Diego. Pomona-Pitzer earned seventh place with their 13-12 victory over Iona.
Championship Match: No. 1 USC Trojans vs. No. 2 Stanford Cardinal
Stanford led 2-1 after the first period, 4-3 at halftime and 6-5 at the conclusion of the third period. At times, USC was behind by as many as three goals during the contest. But at 1:56 in regulation play, Hannah Buckling tied the score at 8-8.
Espar got the go-ahead goal with under a minute left and it looked as though the Trojans would win the game in regulation time. Stanford's Ashley Grossman tied it up with 35 seconds left to send the game into what would turn out to be the longest game in NCAA history.
USC's Kelly Mendoza and Stanford's Maggie Steffens scored in the first overtime period. Melissa Seidemann struck first for the Cardinal in the second overtime frame, with Buckling evening it up with 55 seconds left. The game then went to sudden-death overtime.
In a classic quadruple sudden-death overtime, Espar's goal with 1:13 left in the fourth overtime period gave USC the victory, 10-9, over the Cardinal. Trojan goalie Flora Bolonyai earned Tournament MVP honors. She came up with clutch shots throughout the tournament, including a career-high 17 saves in the championship game–two of them in the crucial final overtime period.
Third-Place Game: No. 3 UCLA Bruins vs. No. 4 Hawaii Rainbow Wahine
The Bruins began the scoring with a penalty shot from Emily Donohoe at 7:34 of the first period. Monika Eggens scored two straight goals for Hawai'I to give them a 2-1 lead. Maddy McLaren and Danielle Ferraro put the Bruins up 3-2, then Eggers completed her hat trick to tie it 3-3. Rachel Fattal scord the first of her four goals with 1:01 left for a 4-3 lead after the first period.
Kellyi Ronimus extended the lead to 5-3. But the Rainbow Wahine, with goals from Emily Carr, Caity Lopes da Silva and Eggens, took a 6-5 advantage. Becca Dorst and Fattal put the Bruins up 7-6 at the half.
India Forster and Dorst gave UCLA a 9-6 lead halfway through the third period. Dorst scored what would prove to be the winning goal. Amarens Genee and Donohoe traded goals to bring the score to 10-7 at the conclusion of the third period.
Fattal scored two more goals and Gisselle Naranjo contributed one in the fourth period to close out the Bruin scoring. Zoe Respondek scored for Hawai'I with three seconds left to make the final score 13-8.
Fifth-Place Game: No. 5 UC San Diego Tritons vs. No. 6 Princeton Tigers
Sophomore Jesse Holechek was able to keep Princeton in the contest as they found themselves in multiple-goal deficits throughout the game. She wound up scoring four goals, including the game winner.
Brittany Zwimer began the scoring at the 6:45 mark of the first period, giving Princeton a 1-0 lead. That would be the last time the Tigers would lead in the first half. The Tritons enjoyed as much as a three-goal advantage before settling for a 6-5 lead at halftime.
Princeton fell to a 10-7 deficit by the 6:39 mark in the fourth period. Zwimer scored twice, with Pippa Templeton adding one in between, to make it 10-10 at the end of regulation.
With 51 seconds in the first overtime period, Holechuk got the go-ahead goal and added an insurance goal in the second overtime frame with just eight ticks on the clock. That gave Princeton a 12-10 victory over UC San Diego.
Princeton goalie Ashleigh Johnson recorded 14 saves, earning a total of 38 for the tournament. Johnson now holds the record for NCAA championship saves.
Seventh-Place Game: No. 7 Iona Gaels vs. No. 8 Pomona-Pitzer Sagehens
Sallie Walecka began the year as a back-up goalie on the Pomona-Pitzer water polo team. She ended the year as a field player who got the game-winning goal in a thrilling 13-12 come-from-behind victory over Iona. The Sagehens put together a 5-0 run in the final 4:30 of the game for the victory, capped by Walecka's goal.
Pomona-Pitzer led 3-1 early on in the first period, but the Gaels came back to tie the game at the end of the period. Iona took their first lead at 4:42 of the second period, 5-4, thanks to Amy Olsen's goal. They extended the lead to 6-4 by the half.
After three quarters the score was 9-8. Iona players scored three times early in the fourth quarter to seemingly put the game out of reach. Katy Schaefer started the five-goal Sagehen comeback with her fifth goal of the game. Contributions from Chrissie Alving-Trinh plus two goals from Alyssa Woodward tied the score at 12-12. With virtually no time left on the clock, Walecka shot from 10 meters out to give Pomona-Pitzer the 13-12 victory.