LOS ANGELES – The No. 3 Cal women’s water polo team fell to USC 11-8 in the Third Place Game of the NCAA Tournament on Sunday.
This marked the third NCAA Tournament appearance ever for the Bears, who took third in 2010 and second in 2011.
It also marked the final game for Cal’s only senior, Ashley Young. She scored a pair of goals in her finale, finishing with 135 in her career, good for 10th on the school’s all-time list.
“This was not the way I wanted to end my senior year,” Young said. “But we are a young team. I’m excited to see how far they go next year.”
Cal (20-10) started five freshmen this season, including MPSF Newcomer of the Year Dora Antal, who scored two goals Sunday to finish with 75 on the season. That is the fourth-best single-season mark ever at Cal and the second-best total by a freshman.
Fellow freshman Roser Tarrago also scored twice and finished with eight in the NCAA Tournament.
“I want to say first of all how proud we are of Ashley, our only senior,” Cal coach Richard Corso said. “She had a great four years. She helped us get back here. If it wasn’t for her, we would not be here.”
Cal’s freshmen accounted for nearly 60 percent of its goals this season, while the trio of Antal, Tarrago and Anna Illes scored almost half of them.
“We have a lot of work to do physically, mentally, tactically and technically,” Corso said. “The fact that we are starting five freshmen is really exciting about our program. I’m really excited for next year.”
The Bears stayed close during the first half. After falling behind 3-1 in the second quarter, Cal got consecutive goals from Tarrago and sophomore Sierra Smiley to tie the game at 3-3 with 2:37 left in the first half.
Cal trailed 4-3 at halftime and was still within 6-4 with 5:05 remaining in the third quarter, but the Trojans scored four goals in a row to take control.