No. 2 USC downs fourth-ranked UCLA 11-6 as Vavic nets 100th goal
WESTWOOD, Calif. -- No. 2 USC turned a one-goal game into a dominating victory as the Trojans ran rampant against No. 4 rival UCLA in the Bruins' home pool on Friday. After UCLA pulled within one, the Trojans turned on the heat and rattled in five consecutive goals -- including sophomore Monica Vavic's 100th career goal -- to put the Bruins way out of reach with an 11-6 victory.
That win wrapped up the regular season with the Women of Troy in second place at 5-1 in the MPSF standings, taking a 21-1 overall record into the postseason as the No. 2 seed in the coming MPSF tournament.
USC's offense was super charged by hat tricks from Anni Espar and Kaleigh Gilchrist, while Vavic rang up her 100th and 101st career goals with a pair of strikes in the win. The cage was guarded by Flora Bolonyai, who hauled in eight saves, including six in the second half as the Trojan defense allowed only two goals in the final two frames. The last UCLA goal was a flukey one, with an extra ripple allowing a floater to creep barely across the line with one second left in the game. That Bruin score ended 12 minutes and 35 seconds of scoreless play by the Bruins, who watched the Trojans turn a 6-5 lead into an 11-5 advantage.
UCLA never led in the game. The Trojans jumped out to a 2-0 lead with a smooth passing series on a 6-on-5 that Hannah Buckling put away early in the first. Jayde Appel earned a 5-meter penalty shot for USC next, and Espar promptly deposited it in the back of the net. UCLA finished a power play of its own next, then pulled even out of two meters, but USC had back-to-back scores lying in wait. Dominique Sardo ripped a bullet through from distance just ahead of the shot clock buzzer to snag back the lead for USC. And out of the gates in the second frame, Espar found Kaleigh Gilchrist for a searing backhand from the post to pump USC up 4-2 on its hosts. The teams traded goals the rest of the half, with UCLA netting two around a cross cage strike from Olivia Cummins as USC led 5-4 at the break.
The Trojan defense made a statement early in the third. The Trojans conspired for back-to-back takeaways at two meters and then Espar delivered with a booming bar-in score to make it 6-4. Another UCLA 6-on-5 got the Bruins back to within one, trailing USC 6-5 with 4:36 to go in the period. That kickstarted an unstoppable rally from the Women of Troy.
Espar nailed her third goal to the back of the cage next, followed by a Gilchrist power move off a feed from Sardo. On a late 6-on-5 advantage, Vavic ripped in her 100th career goal with three second left in the third and USC was out ahead of the Bruins 9-5 entering the final frame. There, the Trojans defense held UCLA silent while Espar created two more big goals for USC. Gilchrist finished off a setup from Espar with another steaming backhand with 5:49 to go. And in the final minute, Espar hit Vavic for a cross-cage finish on a USC 6-on-5 that made it 11-5 Trojans. The Bruins squeezed that one last, late goal on the board before the buzzer, but USC already had its third consecutive win against its rivals well in-hand. The Trojans have notched three consecutive wins against UCLA for the first time since the 1999 season, when USC beat UCLA six games in a row.