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Reign On

Lr_USC_waterpolo_ncaa_championship_stanford_hr_mcgillen_4463.jpgOn Friday, reigning national champion USC women's water polo begins its title defense.

Despite finishing undefeated and on top of the national rankings last year, the Trojans enter the 2017 season at No. 2 in the country. They'll put that ranking to the test at the UCSB Winter Invitational this weekend, where they open with No. 7 Michigan.

USC returns three first-team All-Americans in goalie Amanda Longan, driver Stephania Haralabidis and 2-meter player Brigitta Games. Haralabidis, who won the 2016 Peter J. Cutino Award (considered the Heisman Trophy of water polo), led the team with 63 goals last year. She and her twin sister, Ioanna, who ranked third on the team with 34 goals in 2016, enter their senior season trying to make one final splash.

Eight freshmen join the fold this season, including U.S. National Team member Paige Hauschild and two Canadian National Teamers: Nina Ceklic and Verica Bakoc. They'll help the Trojans compete in events such as the Cal Baptist Invitational, the Whittier Invitational, the Triton Invitational and the UCI Invitational.

The team hopes that after all that, they land a spot in the NCAA Tournament. Head coach Jovan Vavic has some experience there, as he's fresh off taking the men's team to the national title game. He's won 14 titles overall and aims for No. 15 this season.

Follow along on Twitter as USC women's water polo goes for a repeat.

Stevens Center Academic Spotlight: Brianna Daboub

USC's student-athletes are more than just champions on the field, court, diamond and pool --- they're champions in the classroom as well. Each week, we will get to know one of these scholarly Trojans a bit better in our academic spotlight.

Brianna Daboub.jpgName: Brianna Daboub
Class: Junior
Sport: Women's Water Polo
Major: Health & Human Sciences
GPA: 3.18

Aubrey Kragen (AK): Can you describe the Health & Human Sciences program?

Brianna Daboub (DB): It actually started my sophomore year --- I was one of the first people to join the major. It's an interdisciplinary major, so it kind of pulls from psychology, sociology, bio and a bunch of different traditional majors. I really like it --- it's not actually super science-intensive, but it definitely gives you experience in the healthcare field, and that's definitely where I want to be once I graduate.

AK: So the major didn't exist when you showed up at USC? How did you hear about it?

BD: I was just exploring all the majors, really, trying to find what I really liked to do. And my academic advisor recommended me to my major advisor now, and he told me about the major and I loved it immediately and declared.

AK: What about the health world intrigues you?

BD: I think because I play sports, I'm really into the human body. I find that really interesting. But I'm kind of geared more toward the business aspect of health now. I guess the apple doesn't fall far from the tree --- my mom was in marketing and my dad is basically in marketing --- he does sales for Univision. So I think we're kind of a business-oriented family.

AK: You mentioned you wanted to go into healthcare. What exactly do you want to do with your degree?

BD: I don't know exactly. Maybe health administration, so hopefully that's where my Entrepreneurship minor can come into play, with more of the business side. But I'm still exploring all my options right now and looking into possibly going to graduate school.

AK: Was the Entrepreneurship minor something you came in wanting to do or did you kind of fall into it?

BD: One of my friends told me that I should take an entrepreneurship class, because she's an Entrepreneurship minor and she said the professors are great and that she really loved it. So I decided to take Management of Small Business, and I loved my professor. She was great and I just fell in love with it, so I decided to take another one and I loved that class as well.

AK: You were a team captain as a sophomore last year, right? What was that experience like, being an underclassman but having older teammates look up to you?

BD: It was definitely challenging and I was trying to figure it out as we went. But I had Avery Peterson as a co-captain and Alegra Hueso and they definitely helped me out. At a certain point, I had to realize that I was voted captain by my peers, so I had to be a leader and take on that role. It wasn't easy, but I had an incredible team that supported me and made me look good. The credit goes to them.

AK: One of your brothers is a USC student too. What's it like having a sibling here?

BD: It's great having him here. I don't see him as much as I'd hope, but when we see each other on campus, we say hello. It's great having another Trojan in the house, because my oldest brother went to UCLA and played water polo there, so there's kind of a family rivalry. We're pretty supportive of one another and supporting each other's successes.

AK: How would you describe the dynamic having two Trojans and a Bruin in the family?

BD: I think that's more where we butt heads, but I definitely support my oldest brother Anthony and everything that he does. And he does the same for me. When he was in the water, I cheered for him and when I was in the water he cheered for me, and that's how it works.

AK: Lastly, what are your goals as a student-athlete and going forward?

BD: Well, obviously you want to be as successful as you can be and get the best grades you can to set yourself up for the rest of your life. To graduate would be my number one goal academically. Water polo-wise, winning the next two championships, but focusing on this next one first. And beyond that, that's the big question.

Great Eight

USC women's water polo, which went undefeated and won the national championship this year, signed eight new members to its 2017 class yesterday.

Click here for the full release!

Six members of the new class are California products: Paige Hauschild (San Marcos High - Santa Barbara), Sabrina Garabet (St. Lucy's Priory High - Glendora), Kari Jensen (Campolindo High - Moraga), Randi Reinhardt (Murrieta Valley High - Murrieta), Sophie Traversi (Palos Verdes High - Palos Verdes Estates) and her high school teammate Molly Leimbach.

The other two signees are Canadian imports. Nina Ceklic comes to Troy from Calgary and Verica Bakoc is shipping in from Toronto.

Reinhardt and Traversi both had brothers play on USC's men's team, while Jensen and Leimbach are following in their older sister's footsteps at Troy.

These eight will arrive at USC next year to compete in the spring 2018 season. The 2017 season kicks off on Jan. 20 at the Gaucho Invitational in Santa Barbara.


Trophy Time

During the Trojans' game vs. Colorado on Saturday, USC's female student-athletes were presented their trophy and check for winning the 2015-16 Capital One Cup.

The Capital One Cup recognizes NCAA Division I athletics programs for their cumulative performance across multiple men's and women's sports. The Women of Troy earned their first ever Capital One Cup Trophy by winning two national championships (water polo and beach volleyball) and posting eight total Top-10 finishes (lacrosse, volleyball, golf, swimming, track and indoor track) last season. USC's spring sports helped catapult the program from 17th place at the end of the winter season to the top overall spot.

As part of the presentation, Capital One also presented USC with a $200,000 check for student-athlete scholarships.

Currently, USC's women's soccer, volleyball, golf, cross country and swimming programs are working to keep the Women of Troy atop the college athletics totem pole. Women's swimming heads to the SMU Classic on Friday, while volleyball faces Oregon in Eugene on Friday night. Women's golf will start play in the Stanford Intercollegiate tournament on Friday as well.

21 Pilots

Heading into the 2016-17 season, representatives from each of USC's 21 sports met on top of the AT&T Center for the annual "All 21" photo shoot. The AT&T Center, just two miles from campus, overlooks the skyline of downtown Los Angeles, where the Trojans call home.

Top row, from left to right: Nick Bell (men's water polo), Nina Kelty (lacrosse), Rebekah Ent (cross country), Anika  Apostalon (women's swimming), Eric Sloan (men's track & field), Courtney Jaco (women's basketball), Karen Chung (women's golf), Lucas Yoder (men's volleyball), Reed Malone (men's swimming), Brianna Daboub (women's water polo), Sara Hughes (beach volleyball), Jeremy Martinez (baseball)

Bottom row, from left to right: Zach Banner (football), Zoe Katz (women's tennis), Jordan McLaughlin (men's basketball), Amalie Iuel (women's track & field), Madara Strautmane (rowing), Nick Crystal (men's tennis), Collin Pollard (men's diving), Taylor Whittingham (women's volleyball), Savannah Levin (women's soccer), Sean Crocker (men's golf), Madison Witt (women's diving)

Hometown Hero

Written by Grace DeWitt, USC blog contributor

The chance to compete in an Olympics is every athlete's dream. The chance to compete in an Olympics for the host country, in your hometown, in an event your country has never participated in before? Unimaginable. But that was exactly the opportunity for junior Victoria Chamorro, goalie for Women of Troy water polo.

Grace DeWitt (GD): What was your first thought when you learned that Rio would be hosting the Olympics?

Victoria Chamorro (VC): "It was 2009 when I found out. I had started to play water polo a year earlier - I was really new to the sport. I was really happy because the Beijing Olympics had just ended and I had watched and thought, 'Wow, I can play in the Olympics at home in the future,' like a 'when I grow up...' kind of thought. It came true when I joined the national team and later sank in that I actually could be a part of the Olympic team. It was awesome; it was really motivating."

GD: When did you find out you'd be playing for the Brazilian team?

VC: "The last cut was in July of this year. I had already been on the national team for two years with the coach that would be the Olympic coach, but I didn't know if I would be going to the Olympics or not because there would only be two goalies going and there were three trying out. The other two were much older than me, 10 years older. It was the first time that the Brazilian team was going to Olympics. I knew that I had it in me, but I still didn't know if I would be selected. Even though I had played more than the other two goalies, anything could happen. But I was selected, and I was really emotional."

USC_Water_Polo_ASU_031415_MCG6674.JPGGD: Did you bump into other Trojans while you were there?

VC: "Yes! Water polo had a lot of Trojans, for both women's and men's. I met up with my friend, goalie McQuin [Baron], who is also from the class of 2018. I also met up with two women's water polo players from Team USA, Kaleigh Gilchrist and Kami Craig, Kostas [Genidounias] from Greece, and many others. It was really cool to see how strong the USC program is and how many Olympians we send to every Olympics. I was really honored to be part of this group that represents USC water polo in the Olympics. To come back here and be a part of a group that studies here, are Olympians, and play for USC --- it's really gratifying. It's an honor."

GD: You played against Kaleigh and Kami, how was that?

VC: "Kaleigh shot a penalty shot against me. Kami missed one against me. I was doing an interview and then she stopped me and was like 'Dammit, it was the intimidation factor,' because she was swimming and swimming and she didn't stop. She got too close, lost the angle and then she just like...boom. I didn't even have to touch it! It went off the corner; she just missed the cage. I was like, 'Alright!' and she was like, 'Oh, that was embarrassing.' I knew Kaleigh before the Olympics from here at school, but Kami was always someone whose playing I admired a lot. Today we're friends and they're really cool. We always talk at championships because we're both from USC. Playing against them is...interesting (laughs). It's really cool. But they are Americans, so at game time I'm not thinking whether they're from USC or not. But after the game it's all respect, admiration for others from the same school, friendship. So it's really cool. It's cool to see, to have two people that passed through the same process of college as me, and to arrive at this level, earn gold medals, and Kami three medals!"

GD: Describe your emotions playing in your country, in your hometown.

VC: "I have so much to say. First, arriving at the Olympic Village, I already started to cry with my colleagues from here. Afterwards, at the Opening Ceremonies, it was amazing entering Maracana with everyone screaming, singing, Maracana packed. I'm going to get goosebumps thinking about it right now. It was a lot of emotions altogether. I thought a lot about my family, everything I had been through to get to that point, when training was hard, nut at the same time, a lot of happiness to be living in that moment. I was looking up at everything, enjoying the moment. After, in the first game, I was very confident the whole time, very happy, ready, I didn't feel nervous, I didn't feel any pressure. Nerves hadn't hit me at all. It was only my motivation --- to be home, with 10,000 people watching in the stadium. And even when I played, it was very emotional. It was a unique feeling. I had never felt that way in my life."

GD: Did you have a lot of family there watching you at the stadium?

VC: "Yes! My mother and father, my best friends from my childhood, my friends from my Brazilian club team, my aunt, cousins; lots of people."

GD: What was your favorite part of the games?

VC: "The Brazilian fans. The crowd was amazing. Every goal, every time I had the ball they would scream my name. It was such a vibe, they cheered for me the whole time. It was awesome to play with everyone supporting and rooting for you. For me, at least, I didn't feel intimidated, I felt very happy. I was home. Everything changes when you think, 'Wow, everyone is in Brazil playing my sport, which isn't well known here, with 10,000 people watching,' It was very motivational. It was really special."

GD: Did you feel like your team had an impact on the sport in Brazil?

VC: "It was the first women's water polo team from Brazil, a young team with with young players like myself. Other girls were much older, more than 30 years old. It was a milestone in the history of my sport in the country. Our team didn't have a lot of help from the confederation. No investments; they cut it off from us. And even so, the team was able to represent the country well. We were able to show the world of water polo that talent exists in Brazil and that if we had a little bit more incentive from the confederation, we can be a team that can fight for a medal. All the teams had difficult games against us. Brazil was winning until the half against a majority of the teams, so it wasn't easy. Everybody saw Brazil through different eyes, in a different way, with more respect for Brazil's women's water polo. To be part of that impact is very rewarding and I hope that we are in the next Olympics."

GD: Any other thoughts from the games?

VC: "To represent USC in the Olympics, to represent Brazil in Rio, my home, was a special experience. I'm never going to forget it. It changed and impacted my life in many respects: as an athlete, as a person. I'm happy to value Rio as my home. I think the Olympics were very beautiful. I was a little afraid about the structures and security, but it was very positive. I think everything was really beautiful. Everything was alright and made a great impression for everyone who went, especially for me since I'm from Rio. The Olympic spirit definitely will be with me forever and I definitely want to go to Tokyo 2020 now. My hands can't wait."


Golden Gilchrist

Just six days ago, Kaleigh Gilchrist won a gold medal at Rio 2016 with the USA water polo team. It's another incredible accomplishment for the 24-year-old, who won a national championship at USC and also surfs professionally. The Newport Beach, CA native recently returned to SC to share stories about her Olympic experience.

Aubrey Kragen (AK): When you were growing up and playing at SC, did you ever dream of going to the Olympics?

Kaleigh Gilchrist (KG): "For me, it was never a dream or anything, until I was about 12 years old. I found a school project not long ago, where I wrote "About the Author." I talked about myself, and I was like, 'I would love to go to USC on athletic scholarship and then play in the 2012, 2016 Olympic Games. So I found that not too long ago and got the chills ... My dad swam in '64 and '68 and was also a Trojan. My uncle swam in '48 and '42 and was a Trojan as well, so we joked that it was in the family."

AK: What was it like playing with and against other Trojans in the Olympics?

KG: "It's different because USC welcomes international players so much more than other colleges. For me it was tough because I had these insane relationships with Hannah Buckling, Jayde Appel and Anni Espar. Anni is arguably my favorite player I've ever played with --- luckily we played on opposite sides of the pool, so we didn't have to guard each other. We always threw in some smiles here and there and we always gave the good luck texts. It was special to have their support. Once the games start it's always competition but outside of that, we're friends."

AK: Outside of water polo, did you have the chance to meet up with the other Trojans in Rio?

KG: During the Opening and Closing ceremonies, I ran into them and got a couple pictures with fellow Trojans and always cheered them on. I remember watching a bunch of Steve Johnson's tennis matches and then Murphy Troy and Micah [Christensen] for volleyball. It was fun cheering each other on, for sure."

AK: How did your time at USC prepare you for the Olympics?

KG: "Luckily Kami Craig was a part of the team as well, so she had the same background as me. Just being coached by Jovan [Vavic], there's so much more that you learn than just water polo. You learn about being prepared and mentally tough and all those things that I could tell from going through this whole program that others didn't have. I think it just gave me and Kami an edge over other opponents and kept us competing."

AK: So what's it like having a gold medal?

KG: "It's pretty surreal, for sure, because we've been dreaming about this since we've been little kids ... I've been showing it around and everyone is pretty amazed by it and by how heavy it is --- apparently this is the heaviest medal."

AK: What were some of your favorite sights that you saw or cultural experiences in Rio?

KG: "We were lucky enough to go in November, and we did a lot of touristy things, so it was flushed out of our system before the Olympics. But in November, we saw El Cristo Redentor, and that's insane. It's one of the wonders of the world. We were able to get some team photos there, and it was cool in November to be able to dream of where we wanted to be in August.

AK: You're also a professional surfer. How is it possible for a person to be so good at two different sports? How do you fit that all into your day?

KG: "I'm obsessed with both sports, and I've always been a goal-setter. So it would first be like, 'I want to win a local contest, or I want to win a little tiny water polo tournament.' The older I got, and as I developed into a better athlete, the goals grew. I was like, 'I want to win CIF. I want to win NCAAs. I want to win an Olympic gold." And for surfing, it goes the same way: 'I want to win an NSSA championship. I want to go to Worlds and make the USA Team.' I was really all about goal-setting and attacking them, attacking my dreams, and I've been able to pursue them."

AK: Lastly, what's next for you?

KG: "Next goal is to go to Tokyo 2020. The goal is to go for surfing, but if not I want to be there no matter what. It might be water polo, but I'm committing to surfing for the next year, and I'll re-evaluate after that."


Water Polo Winners

Kami Craig and Kaleigh Gilchrist, two USC water polo alums, won gold at Rio 2016 today in Team USA's 12-5 win over Italy.

Click here to follow #USC2RIO!

Craig, who won an NCAA championship at USC in 2010, scored one goal in the final, and five total goals throughout the tournament. Gilchrist, a 2013 NCAA champ with USC, also scored five goals in Rio.

USC now boasts 14 medals at Rio 2016 (six gold, five silver, three bronze), and 302 medals all-time (141 gold, 93 silver, 68 bronze).

kami kaleigh.jpg

#USC2RIO: Victoria Chamorro

The countdown is on to the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, and once again, USC will be represented by a roster of Trojans that would match most countries. Time to unveil your USC Olympians...

Name: Victoria Chamorro

Country: Brazil

Event: Women's Water Polo

USC water polo has dominated the collegiate landscape over the past decade, and the fruits of that labor will be seen in Rio. The Trojans are sending nine Olympians to compete in the men's and women's water polo tournaments, including current Women of Troy goalie Victoria Chamorro.

Chamorro is one of two Trojans from the host nation, Brazil, to compete in this year's Olympic Games. The rising junior played in 13 matches as a sophomore for the NCAA champions, battling Amanda Longan all year long for minutes. The previous season, Chamorro made 207 saves, the ninth highest single-season total in program history, to set the USC freshman record and earn All-American status.

On the international stage, Chamorro has proven quite comfortable. The Rio native has represented Brazil at the 2016 FINA Super Final, 2014 FINA Super Final, and the 2013 FINA World Championships.


#USC2RIO: Anni Espar

The countdown is on to the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, and once again, USC will be represented by a roster of Trojans that would match most countries. Time to unveil your USC Olympians...

Name: Anni Espar

Country: Spain

Event: Women's Water Polo

Espar is headed to her second Olympics, carrying Spain to a silver medal at London 2012 as a 19-year-old. She scored 15 goals, second most in the tournament, to earn a spot on the Olympic All-Star Team and be named European Water Polo Player of the Year.

Since then, she scored the game-winning goal for USC women's water polo in the 2013 NCAA Championship Match and then pushed her country to gold at the 2013 FINA World Championships. She followed that up by winning the 2014 European Championships.

Spain will likely be in contention for a medal again after finishing second to Team USA at the 2016 FINA World League in June.


#USC2RIO: Hannah Buckling

The countdown is on to the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, and once again, USC will be represented by a roster of Trojans that would match most countries. Time to unveil your USC Olympians...

Name: Hannah Buckling

Country: Australia

Event: Women's Water Polo

USC boasts a dominant women's water polo program, including the 2016 undefeated national champions, so it's no surprise that the Women of Troy litter the Olympic rosters, including Australian standout Hannah Buckling.

In her single season served at USC, Buckling certainly made her mark. She was instrumental in the Trojans' run to the 2013 NCAA Championship, earning status as the 2013 MPSF Tournament MVP and going on to garner All-American honors after punching up 40 goals for the Women of Troy that season.

Upon her return to Australia, Buckling rejoined her National Team and has stood out as a driving force for the Aussies' success. Buckling provided five goals for Australia in its fourth-place finish at the 2010 FINA World Championships, following up the silver medal that she won in the 2013 event. Buckling was the 2012 Australian Junior Female Water Polo Player of the Year, and has stayed on that powerful path in her time with the Stingers.

Australia most recently captured bronze at the 2016 FINA Super Final, led by two goals from Buckling for the Aussies in the bronze-medal match.


Run the World

champs.jpgFor the first time, the Women of Troy are the Capital One Cup champions, winning the prestigious trophy which ranks the most successful women's athletic programs in the country each year. On the strength of two national championships, women's water polo and beach volleyball, and eight Top 10 finishers, USC women's athletics edged Stanford and Penn State for the top spot.

"We have always been proud of our women's athletics program and are excited to see it recognized as the winner of the 2015-16 Capital One Cup," said USC Athletics Director Lynn Swann. "As a first for our University, we are honored to receive this award and applaud our women's athletes and coaching staff on this remarkable achievement. All of us at USC would like to extend our gratitude to Capital One for its continued support of student-athletes."

Click here for more.

Overall, the Trojans finished fourth in the Learfield Directors' Cup, which annually measures the all-around competitive strength of the athletic department. USC was bested by Stanford, Ohio State and Michigan. This was the Trojans' fourth Top 10 finish in the past five years, and follows their best-ever third place finish in 2014-15.

#USC2RIO: Kaleigh Gilchrist

The countdown is on to the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, and once again, USC will be represented by a roster of Trojans that would match most countries. Time to unveil your USC Olympians...

Name: Kaleigh Gilchrist

Country: United States of America

Event: Women's Water Polo

For the second time in as many days, we profile a former USC women's water polo champion who is headed to Rio to try to do the same for Team USA. Unlike Kami Craig though, Kaleigh Gilchrist will be experiencing everything for the first time at this summer's Olympics.

Gilchrist has always been torn between her two passions - water polo and surfing. The two-time U.S. amateur surfing champion will hang up her board for the time being and don the cap of the defending Gold medal winners at her first Olympics.

Click here for ESPNW's profile of Gilchrist's multiple passions.

Gilchrist will want to make the most of Rio as she plans to focus solely on her surf career going forward. "Everything happens for a reason and I am exactly where I want to be right now," Gilchrist said. "But August 20th I am going to be a surfer, hopefully."


#USC2RIO: Kami Craig

The countdown is on to the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, and once again, USC will be represented by a roster of Trojans that would match most countries. Time to unveil your USC Olympians...

Name: Kami Craig

Country: United States of America

Event: Women's Water Polo

With one month to go until the opening ceremonies, excitement is building for the athletes, coaches and fans in anticipation of Rio 2016. Kami Craig, who pocketed Gold at London 2012 and silver at Beijing 2008, will be one of the few Olympians in control of her heart rate having been there and done that.

While Craig is a Team USA stalwart, the women's water polo veteran reacted to making her third Olympics like a first-timer.

"Immediately, I started crying," Craig described her reaction to the news of making the team. "It never gets old. You never know, there's always a bit of anxiety or nerves going into making a team or selection of a team. Even though it would be my third Olympics, going through the process in what you have to overcome - the injuries, the change of the roster, the playing time, the practices, the uniting of the team -- it's all challenging. Anything you put 100 percent commitment and heart into, it's pretty rewarding when you get to actually hear those words being said."


Props to Peterson

Junior USC women's water polo captain Avery Peterson leads a trio of Trojans receiving All-Academic honors from the Association of Collegiate Water Polo Coaches for the 2016 season. In addition to Peterson, freshmen Courtney Fahey and Mackenzie Flath earned spots on the national academic list for their cumulative GPAs of 3.20 and above. 

This is the third ACWPC All-Academic selection for Peterson, a communications major with an impressive 3.41 GPA. Fahey leads the Women of Troy on the academic front, boasting a 3.47 GPA while Flath rounds out the talented group with a 3.28 GPA. The trio all contributed to the Trojans' remarkable, national championship-winning 26-0 season. 


Haralabidis' Heisman

USC junior Stephania Haralabidis completed her sweep of collegiate water polo's postseason awards on Saturday, becoming the sixth Trojan woman to win the highly-coveted Peter J. Cutino Award, also known as water polo's Heisman Trophy. The three-time All-American, who also won 2016 ACWPC National Player of the Year, MPSF Player of the Year and NCAA Tournament MVP after scoring the game-winning goal in the 2016 National Championship, is the first USC women's honoree since 2010.

The engine of USC's offense this year, Haralabidis tallied 63 total goals en route to the program's second undefeated season. She currently ranks No. 8 all-time in career scoring at USC with 185 goals, after scoring in every game during the 2016 campaign. 

Haralabidis snapped a five-year stretch of Stanford women claiming water polo's most prestigious award, dating back to USC's last winner, Kami Craig, in 2010. The junior joins former USC recipients Craig (2009, 10), Lauren Wenger (2006), Moriah Van Norman (2004), Aniko Pelle (2000) and Bernice Orwig (1999). 

Watch Haralabidis' Cutino Award acceptance speech here...

Pair of the Year

Not much could make the 2016 women's water polo season better for head coach Jovan Vavic and junior captain Stephania Haralabidis, but the announcement on Thursday that the pair, which earlier this year swept MPSF honors for Player and Coach of the Year, claimed the national honors of the same name just might have been the exclamation mark on a perfect year.

The news comes just over two weeks after Vavic and Haralabidis led the Women of Troy to the program's second undefeated regular season and fifth national championship with a nail-biting, 8-7, victory over Stanford. The junior driver was responsible for the heart-stopping, game-winning goal against the Cardinal, and was thereby awarded NCAA Tournament MVP after scoring eight goals in USC's tournament run, including five in the championship game. The National Player of the Year recognition is the most recent of Haralabidis' postseason commendations which include MPSF Player of the Year. After tacking on 63 goals this season, she currently ranks No. 8 on USC's all-time scoring list with 185 total goals in her career. She is USC's fourth National Player of the Year selection. Haralabidis is now a three-time All-American and is a finalist for the Peter J. Cutino Award - considered to be water polo's Heisman Trophy. 

Vavic is now a seven-time National Coach of the Year, the most of any collegiate women's water polo coach. This is the fourth year in which the prestigious coach has won both MPSF and National Coach of the Year honors. His all-time record stands at 513-142 (.783).

Also announced on Thursday, junior Brigitta Games and freshman Amanda Longan earned spots on the All-American First Team, while junior Ioanna Haralabidis made the Second Team and Brianna Daboub and Avery Peterson received honorable mention. 


Spring Smarts

After a phenomenal spring seasons in the water and on the court, beach, track and field, six USC teams closed the book on a successful academic semester as well, collecting postseason academic awards at both the conference and national levels.

Announced last week, eleven members of the conference-winning USC women's lacrosse team, five men's volleyball players and five members of the women's water polo team, which posted it's third-highest team GPA this semester, earned MPSF All-Academic recognition. 

After winning the program's first-ever NCAA national championship, four members of the USC beach volleyball team - Nicolette Martin, Jenna Belton, Jo Kremer and Sophie Bukovec (pictured) - secured spots on the first-ever Pac-12 Beach Volleyball All-Academic teams. Martin received First Team honors, Belton and Kremer were named to the Second Team, while Bukovec garnered honorable mention. 

Three women's rowers, Sara Bilimoria, Kaelyn Ibold and Ida Gortz Jacobsen, received Collegiate Rowing Coaches Association National Scholar-Athlete recognition

And rounding out the group of talented USC spring student-atheltes, USC senior Jaide Stepter, now headed to the NCAA Championships in the 400m hurdles, earned CoSIDA Academic All-District honors for her combined success on the track and in the classroom.


Photo Gallery: Championship Drama

While 26-0 is as dominant as season's get, USC women's water polo did not come by that final victory easily. Stanford pushed the Women of Troy to the brink in the NCAA Title Match before Stephania Haralabidis delivered the exclamation point on perfection by sailing in the championship-winning goal with six seconds left in regulation.

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What ensued from that point forward can loosely be termed as a pool party. Enjoy the anxiety and the ecstasy of John McGillen's national championship photo gallery.


USC women's water polo finished off an undefeated season, 26-0, with an NCAA championship by beating Stanford, 8-7, thanks to a game-winning goal by Stephania Haralabidis with only six seconds to play in Westwood. The Women of Troy collected the program's fifth national championship and the 125th all-time for USC (102 NCAA team titles).

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The Women of Troy led 7-5 with 52 seconds left after Brianna Daboub provided what appeared to be a comfortable cushion, but Stanford, the defending champions, responded with back-to-back goals to put the match on the precipice of overtime. To win USC's last national championship, back in 2013, the Women of Troy needed five overtimes to overcome the Cardinal, but Haralabidis' championship-winning shot put an end to tonight's drama just before the regulation buzzer.

The goal by Haralabidis was her fifth and final of the match, earning her NCAA Tournament MVP honors. Brigitta Games added two goals, while Amanda Longan made nine saves.

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For head coach Jovan Vavic, the history-making never ceases. He has now claimed 14 national titles at USC (nine for the men and five for the women), including four undefeated seasons.


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