Daboub, Hauschild Lead USC To Decisive Semifinal Win Over Crosstown Rival UCLA

USC's Amanda Longan. Photo Courtesy: Catharyn Hayne

By Michael Randazzo, Swimming World Contributor

LOS ANGELES, CA. USC Head Coach Jovan Vavic has had many great offensive players in his 24 seasons in Troy. But he has never had a freshman offensive threat as dominating as Paige Hauschild. In yet another eye-opening display, the Santa Barbara native joined with Brianna Daboub to kick start a Trojan offensive explosion in the opening period, as USC (25-1) raced out to a 5-2 lead and were never headed in beating the Bruins (23-8) for the fourth time this season—a program first—by the score of 10-6.

With the win, USC will face Stanford for the national championship today in the Uytengsu Aquatics Center.

Vavic was effusive with praise for his freshman phenom, who not only was an obvious choice asMountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF) Newcomer of Year, but was recently named a finalist for the Peter J. Cutino Award, the top honor for NCAA water polo athletes.

“She’s one of the best freshmen who’s ever played Division I water polo,” he said. “She’s dominant in every aspect: defense, offense, finishing. She never loses a sprint. She’s just a complete player.

“I’m very fortunate that she chose us.”

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Trojan faithful at Uytengsu Aquatics Center. Photo Courtesy: Catharyn Hayne

With the score knotted at one, USC scored on three straight possessions—a power-play strike by Hayley McKelvey, a blistering blast by Hauschild, and another score with the man advantage, this time by Denise Mammolito— to take a 4-1 lead. A Daboub goal, her second of the period, gave the host Trojans a 5-2 lead that was expanded to 7-2 by intermission.

UCLA fought gallantly but were shorthanded due to the continued absence of leading scorer Maddie Musselman, who sat out NCAAs due to an undisclosed ailment. As UCLA Head coach Adam Wright noted after the game, his team’s job was to stifle the USC offense, but—given the impressive firepower the Trojans wield, that task proved monumental.

“As I told you yesterday, if we were going to get this done we had to be tough on defense,” Wright said. “It was a tale of two halves. We created a lot of opportunities in the first half; we just couldn’t get the ball in.”

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UCLA’s Bronte Halligan. Photo Courtesy: Catharyn Hayne

Without Musselman, the Bruins’ offense struggled mightily, getting two goals apiece from Devin Grab and Alexis Angermund and single scores from Bronte Halligan and Lizette Rozeboom. Adding to UCLA’s scoring woes was the presence in net of Amanda Longan. In 21 appearance this season, the 2018 MPSF Player of the Year has given up an average of five goals a game, and only once have the Trojans allowed double-digits in goals scored; against Stanford in a 13-12 OT win two weeks ago in the MPSF final. The Trojan defensive pressure was ferocious, and having Longan—also a Cutino Award Finalist—between the USC pipes dampened any comeback hopes the Bruins might have harbored.

A season of superlatives—a lone loss, absolutely dominant performances on both ends of the pool, and a fifth MPSF title—will go for naught if USC cannot get past a Stanford squad that over the years has proven remarkably resilient. All-time, The Cardinal own a 35-34 edge over the Trojans, but—if past performance is any indicator of future success—the last two times Vavic’s team has won the MPSF crown (2013, 2016), they’ve gone on to capture the national time.

Their opponent in those NCAA finals? Stanford.

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Author: Michael Randazzo

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Michael Randazzo is a freelance contributor at Swimming World focusing on water polo. He covers polo all over the United States for SW and other publications, including the Collegiate Water Polo Association, Skip Shot, The New York Times, Total Water Polo, Water Polo Planet and others. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife and two children and roots for St. Francis Brooklyn polo.

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