No. 10 Air Force Falls to Top-Ranked USC in NCAA Semifinal
Dec. 1, 2012
LOS ANGELES, Calif. - In its first-ever trip to the national semifinals, the 10th-ranked Air Force water polo team dropped an 18-7 contest to four-time defending champion USC Saturday afternoon in the 2012 National Collegiate Water Polo Tournament, being held at McDonald's Swim Stadium.
USC (28-0) was first to get on the scoreboard, but back-to-back goals from Josh Stedman (Jr., Brea, Calif.) and Cruz Smithson (Sr., Capistrano Beach, Calif.) gave Air Force a 2-1 lead in the first four minutes of action. However, the Trojans ended the opening period with three straight goals and added the first score of the second quarter to take a 5-2 advantage.
Junior Andrew Hamilton (Mechanicsburg, Pa.) snapped USC's scoring run with his first goal of the game, cutting the margin to two goals, but USC responded with three more scores to end the half, earning an 8-3 advantage at the break.
The Trojans continued their run with three straight goals after the intermission, and put the game out of reach by outscoring Air Force 6-2 in the third period, before rolling to the 11-goal victory.
"I was really proud of our kids," said Air Force head coach Jeff Heidmous. "We had opportunities that would have kept it close. Then [USC] got a few good goals and a lead and were able to put pressure on the outside, which we did not handle very well."
Stedman and Hamilton both finished with two goals for Air Force, while Smithson, Petar Jackovich (So., New Lenox, Ill.) and Max Reilly (Jr., Davis, Calif.) added the other scores for the Falcons. Meanwhile, senior goalkeeper Mike Fish (Manhattan Beach, Calif.) had a solid performance in goal for Air Force, particularly in the first half, finishing the game with 12 saves.
"Mike [Fish] has been great for us all season," stated Heidmous. "It could have been 28-0 without him. He has been there for us the whole year and was really key during our conference tournament. We will need him again tomorrow."
The fourth-seeded Falcons (19-11) take on third-seed St. Francis Brooklyn in tomorrow's third-place contest, slated to begin at 1:00 p.m. (PT). Meanwhile, the Trojans will face second-seed UCLA in the championship game.
No. 1 USC 18, No. 10 Air Force 7