Anteaters Fall to Trojans

Jack Yu | Staff Photographer

Jack Yu | New University

No. 5 UC Irvine women’s water polo team gave No. 3 USC all they could handle, but in the end fell to the visiting Trojans 11-7 at the Anteater Aquatics Complex Saturday afternoon.

The Anteaters (9-6) struck first right out of the gate as junior center McKenna Mitchell scored in the first minute to take a quick 1-0 lead. UC Irvine’s celebration would be short-lived, however, as USC responded with a goal of their own at 5:07 to tie the game. USC then went on to score three unanswered goals before redshirt senior Danielle Ward stopped the bleeding at 0:53 to cut the deficit to 2-4. Junior Jayde Appel answered right back a mere 24 seconds later to give the Trojans a 5-2 lead before the end of the first quarter.

In the second quarter, the Anteaters doubled down on their defensive efforts and held USC to just a lone goal by junior Melissa Bergesen at the 6:28 mark. Mitchell and sophomore Makenzie Milham each had one goal in the fourth minute to cut the Trojan lead to 6-4 before the half.

USC answered back with four goals in the third quarter, capped off by a buzzer beater by Bergesen to widen the lead back to 10-5.

UC Irvine finished the fourth quarter off another goal by Mitchell and sophomore Gabby Pierandozzi, to finish the match 11-7 with the Trojans picking up the win.

“I thought we had two really good quarters, maybe two and a half really good quarters, and unfortunately we had about a quarter of really bad defensive water polo. To beat a team like that, you’re going to have to hold them to six goals, seven goals, they’re not going to give you 11 goals. So it’s going to be challenging to beat a team like that.” said UCI head coach Dan Klatt. “I think that’s where we struggled today, offensively, I thought we created some good things, and as I said, I think the second quarter was good, I think the fourth quarter was good, I think a portion of the third quarter was good,  I thought defensively and the first quarter and the back half of the third quarter I thought we struggled.”

Mitchell led the Anteaters with three goals, while Warde recorded one goal, two steals, and three assists. Boasting a young roster composed of only two seniors, UC Irvine’s women’s water polo team still has room for plenty of growth and improvement in the upcoming season.

“We’re still growing, we got to use this next month to continue growing, we got another three game tournament next weekend which is a big deal for us, but these games are all preparation. Our goal’s always to win conference at the end of season,” said UCI head coach Dan Klatt. “When I really care about beating SC or LA or Stanford or Cal, is at the end of the season in the NCAAs. If I can choose when to beat them, I want to beat them then, right now I’m happy to use these games just for growth.”

UC Irvine will next travel to Indiana where they will participate on the Fluid Five Tournament from March 7-8.