This weekend, the #1 USC Women's Water Polo team traveled to Harvard to compete for the NCAA championship, and after steamrolling their way to the final, they will compete their program's fourth national title against a team they expected to meet here from the start of the season: the Stanford Cardinal.
All season long, it's been USC and Stanford vying for the top spot, with everyone else a distant third. Both teams' losses have come at the hands of each other. USC (26-1) lost a home game on April 13 by a score of 6-4. It is the only game this season in which USC scored less than nine goals. Stanford (29-2), lost to USC in two tournament finals, first in the UCI Invitational 13-10, and then in the MPSF conference championship 11-7.
By winning the MPSF title, USC earned favorable matchups in the quarters and semis of the NCAA tournament and make the most of them. In the quarterfinals against Pomona-Pitzer, they gave up the first goal of the match before steamrolling their way to a 27-1 victory. Then, on Saturday, they defeated Hawaii 16-9, going on a seven goal streak early in the match to put it out of reach.
Stanford, meanwhile, cruised to a victory over Iona 20-3 before facing a tough semifinal against dark horse UCLA. Like many of their toughest games, Stanford relied on their tenacious defense and strong goalkeeping from senior Kate Baldoni to get the job done, advancing to the final by a 5-3 win.
The final holds huge implications for both sides. For Stanford, a victory would give them their third consecutive national championship, a full-fledged water polo dynasty, and the school's 104th NCAA championship. USC is gunning for their second national title in four years, and Jovan Vavic is aiming for his 12th national title as a USC head coach. That would tie him with legendary track coach Dean Cromwell for the most national championships won by a coach in Trojan Athletics' history. This is also the third time in the last four years that Troy and The Farm have faced each other in the championship. USC defeated Stanford 10-9 to claim the 2010 crown, and Stanford downed SC 6-4 last year.
So, who will be victorious: USC's juggernaut offense, or Stanford's lights-out defense? The game starts at 2:15 PM PT and will be streamed on NCAA.com. Comment here. This is the game thread.