USC, Behind Brownsberger, Hauschild and Megens, Downs Wagner in NCAA Women’s Water Polo Quarterfinals

USC's Victoria Chamorro making a save on Friday in NCAA action. Photo Courtesy: Catharyn Hayne

By Michael Randazzo, Swimming World Contributor

LOS ANGELES, CA. The top-ranked Trojans of USC opened their pursuit of their sixth national championship with a decisive 12-5 win Friday over Wagner College in the quarterfinals of the 2018 NCAA Women’s Water Polo Tournament. Kaylee Brownsberger led USC with three goals, while Paige Hauschild, Maud Megens and Elise Stein chipped in two goals apiece. Erika Hardy led the Seahawks with two goals, who misfired on 24 of the 29 shots they took against goalies Amanda Longan and Victoria Chamorro.

Missing for the Trojans (24-1) was Head Coach Jovan Vavic, who had to sit out the game as the result of a red card he received two weeks ago in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation tournament final, a 13-12 overtime win over defending national champions Stanford. Casey Moon filled in for the long-time Trojan head coach in front of a large contingent of USC fans in the Uytengsu Aquatics Center’s stands.

When USC started out slowly to open the game, and led only 2-1 after the first period, some Trojan faithful were noticeably restless—but not Moon, who has been with USC for 11 years. After the match he expressed utmost confidence that the team would work out it’s issues, which it did by the second period.

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Trojan faithful rejoice! Photo Courtesy: Catharyn Hayne

Goals by Brownsberger, Megens and Hauschild early in the second period allowed the Trojans to break open the game as they sprinted to a 7-2 halftime lead and were never headed in advancing to the NCAA semifinals for the 15th straight year.

“Our girls are the most prepared in the country, so we could have anybody stand there as a coach, and the girls can play for themselves,” Moon said. “It was great to see them play for themselves.”

For much of the second half, USC rested Hauschild and Megens, while Chamorro filled in between the goal posts for Longan, the 2018 MPSF player of the year.

Despite a tough loss to the Trojans, Wagner Head Coach Chris Radmonovich spoke of the progress for his team (25-7), which has qualified for five straight NCAA tournaments and advanced to the quarterfinals the past two seasons.

“We had our ups and downs bringing upper classmen and younger athletes together and making it all fit together through the year but, in the end, they’ve just really played hard and found a way to be successful,” Radmonovich said. “The goal every year is to take the next step forward, whether it was winning the conference championship, or winning in the opening round [of NCAAs].

“Compared to last year [a 17-2 quarterfinal loss to UCLA] to where we’ve come now, I feel that we’ve taken a big step forward.”

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Wagner’s Erika Hardy. Photo Courtesy: Catharyn Hayne

Watching from the stands were a sizable contingent of Seahawk supporters, including senior Elise Begg’s parents Susan and Scott. While it was a disappointing end to their daughter’s career in Staten Island, the Beggs had nothing but positive thoughts.

“You couldn’t ask for a better ending, playing USC at USC,” Susan Begg said. “I’m proud of all the girls; they did a terrific job.”

When asked how their California-born daughter fared out East, Begg was upbeat.

“She lived every moment and loved it,” she said. “Being in New York City was fabulous.

“She can come back [West] and say I did something amazing—and Wagner was a big part of that.”

Also watching from the stands was Jasmin Kolasinac, a star freshman for the Wagner men’s polo team. When asked if he was inspired by the Seahawk women, Kolasinac, who scored 88 goals in helping a Seahawk squad to the Mid-Atlantic Water Polo Conference Final in only the second year of the program’s existence, was excited by the possibility of following the lead of his coed classmates.

“During this game I’m thinking a lot about our men’s team.” he said. “It is inspiring when you see they came all the way to California and made the top eight teams.”

The Seahawks will now pack their bags for a return East; the Trojans will prepare for a third meeting this season with the Bruins of UCLA. USC has won all previous meetings and—with Megens, Hauschild and Denise Mammolito (38 goals) all healthy, beating the Trojans in their home pool appears to be a near-impossible task—especially with Vavic, one of the winningest coaches in NCAA water polo history—back in his accustomed role behind the USC bench.

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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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