USC scored five unanswered goals in the first half and four in the second en route to a record-setting 18-9 victory over UCLA Sunday in the NCAA women’s water polo championship game.
The top-seeded Trojans (22-1) never trailed, leading 4-2 at the end of the first quarter, 10-5 at halftime and 15-7 through three periods. USC’s nine-goal margin was the highest in the 20 NCAA women’s water polo championship games and their 18 goals were the most.
The third-seeded Bruins (15-5) cut the lead to one twice, at 2-1 and 3-2, before junior Mireia Guiral scored with five seconds left in the first period to begin the Trojans’ 5-0 run.
Goals by Maud Megens and Bayley Weber increased the Trojans’ lead to 6-2 with six minutes left in the eight-minute second period. After Verica Bakoc scored off Denise Mammolito’s assist with 5:02 left in the second period to give USC a 7-2 lead, Bruins’ coach Adam Wright replaced goalkeeper Jahmea Bent with Georgia Phillips.
Guiral completed the run with a power-play goal off Megens’ assist with 3:13 remaining in the period.
UCLA center Ava Johnson scored the first goal of the second half, but the Trojans scored the next four to take a 14-6 lead with 3:41 left in the third period.
USC scored on seven of its 11 power-play opportunities, the Bruins three of seven. UCLA made both of its penalty shots. The Trojans were not awarded a penalty shot.
Megens led USC with six goals, while Bakoc added four, Weber three, Guiral two and Denise Mammolito, Kelsey McIntosh and Grace Tehaney one each.
Abbi Hill led the Bruins with three goals. Johnson scored twice and Val Ayala, Bella Baia, Brooke Maxson and Roxy Wheaton once each for UCLA.
Trojans’ goalkeeper Holly Parker made 13 saves. Bent made three saves and allowed 10 goals in 18:58 of play. She returned to the game at the start of the fourth period, replacing Phillips, who allowed eight goals and did not make a save in 13:02.
The victory gave USC its 109th NCAA team championship, including six in women’s water polo, and 132nd team national championship.
The championship was the Trojans’ first in women’s water polo since 2019. They lost to Stanford, 9-8, in the 2019 championship game. The tournament was not held in 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Bruins were seeking their eighth NCAA women’s water polo championship and first since 2009. UCLA and Stanford share the lead with seven each.
The previous largest margin was four goals, set in 2002 by Stanford in its 8-4 victory over UCLA and matched by the Cardinal in their 9-5 victories over California in 2011 an UCLA in 2014.
The Trojans had the previous goal-scoring record, 10, set in 2004 and matched in 2010 and 2013.
The crowd at UCLA’s Spieker Aquatics Center was limited to specified team guests because of COVID-19 protocols.