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Women's Water Polo: Gilchrist, Trojans clamp down on UCI

Junior co-captain scores twice, as top-ranked USC dominates second half against No. 7 Anteaters.

April 06, 2013|By Matt Szabo
  • USC's Kaleigh Gilchrist, right, a former Newport Harbor High standout, defends against UC Irvine's Taylor Morrison during the second half.
USC's Kaleigh Gilchrist, right, a former Newport… (KEVIN CHANG, Daily…)

IRVINE — Growing up, Kaleigh Gilchrist always was known as the two-sport star.

She was a surfer, and she was a water polo player. She was great with a board and a big wave, or with a No. 15 cap on her dome in the pool.

Gilchrist, the former Newport Harbor High standout, still has a passion for both sports. But right now in her life, water polo reigns supreme.

The decision may not have been easy, but the USC women's water polo team is certainly reaping the benefits.

Gilchrist is a junior co-captain on the top-ranked team in the country. She had two goals as USC pulled away to top No. 7 UC Irvine, 11-3, in a nonconference game Saturday afternoon at the Anteaters' pool.

"I had to commit myself to water polo," Gilchrist said after helping the Trojans improve to 20-0. "I guess that's the reason I came to college, to get a degree and win national championships. I've kind of been putting surfing on the back burner. I've definitely been surfing still almost just as much, but competitively, I'm just going to do a couple of contests and wait until I graduate, then go full bore. Right now, it's all water polo."

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Gilchrist was a second-team All-American last year while leading USC in scoring, helping the team advance to the national title game before losing to Stanford. Again this year, Gilchrist is a big threat for the Trojans. She is playing more on the outside than at two meters this year, but she is second on the team with 31 goals. Saturday's two-goal output represented her eighth multi-goal game of the season.

She helped jump start the Trojans early, scoring off a foul on their first possession of the game. And she assisted on USC's second goal, firing a cross pass to junior Hannah Buckling on the left. Buckling, who had a team-high three goals for the Trojans, scored to give USC a 2-0 advantage late in the first quarter.

USC Coach Jovan Vavic, who is trying to lead the program to its fourth national title, said Gilchrist is a really intelligent player.

"She has grown up the last couple of years, and really became a leader of our team," Vavic said. "Her first year, she was not really sure what she wanted to do. You know, she's an outstanding surfer. I think that the first semester was really rough for her. But the last year and a half, she has made tremendous improvements in her game and her overall commitment to water polo. Now, she's clearly our team leader."

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