The road to the national title goes through Arizona

USC swimming and diving will face Arizona and ASU in back-to-back dual meets this weekend, starting with the Wildcats on Friday.

Arizona was shell-shocked after an upset last season when the Trojans beat the 2008 NCAA Champions 164-136 on the women’s side and 152-91 on the men’s.

Fired up · USC swimming coach Dave Salo said defending champion Arizona will serve as a measuring stick for the up-and-coming Trojans. -Dieuwertje Kast | Daily Trojan

Fired up · USC swimming coach Dave Salo said defending champion Arizona will serve as a measuring stick for the up-and-coming Trojans. -Dieuwertje Kast | Daily Trojan

But this year, USC is no longer the underdog and Arizona, one of the top three teams in the country, is well aware of what is coming.

“If we are going to challenge for a team NCAA title in the next few years, we have to be able to compete against the very best like Arizona,” USC coach Dave Salo said.

Sibling rivalry will be pushed to the limit when USC’s freshman distance star Haley Anderson takes on her older sister, Wildcat sophomore Alyssa Anderson, who was ranked in the top 10 in two individual events at the NCAA Championships last season.

USC’s Anderson is no rookie, coming in second at the World Championship Trials this summer.

The men’s team feels confident in its sprint events after Arizona’s mistake-ridden 50-freestyle last weekend against Wisconsin, when freshman Nick Popov and junior Craig Jordens both false-started. Jordens failed to realize his mistake until completing the entire 50 meters.

Sophomore Jeff Daniels and junior transfer Emmett Walling will be the Trojans to watch in this event.

“We’re ready to give the Wildcats a serious run for their money,” said men’s sophomore captain Patrick White said. “The freshmen are going to get a chance to feel what it’s like to truly earn a victory.”

The women’s 200 butterfly might be the nail-biting event of the day, with the Trojans dishing up four of the best flyers in the country: All-American sophomore Tanya Krisman, All-American junior transfer Lyndsay DePaul, All-American sophomore Katinka Hosszu and freshman Yumi So.

“It’s going to be a great meet — very competitive with close finishes,” said women’s senior captain Krissy Forelli. “We’ve been preparing for this meet from the moment we won last year.”

Following a stellar performance at the Trojan Diving Invitational, the diving team looks to continue its success this weekend. Sophomores Victoria Ishimatsu and Harrison Jones swept all their events at the invitational and are showing no signs of slowing down.

On Saturday, the Trojans will travel to Tempe, Ariz. to take on the Sun Devils, a once-strong team that has endured unsettling changes after their men’s team was temporarily terminated due to budget cuts in 2008.

“ASU is rebuilding their program and will no doubt be under-manned this year,” Salo said.

The key to beating ASU will be staying focused after a tough day of competition against Arizona. The team will be traveling on a flight the same day they face the Wildcats, so remaining mentally alert and tough will be vital to both days of competition.

“Everyone knows the task at hand and I have a feeling we’re going to have some breakthrough performances,” Forelli said. “I’m excited and can feel the energy throughout the team.”

For the men’s team, there will be many Trojan debuts, this being the team’s first official dual meet of the season. Freshmen to watch will be top US recruit Alex Lendrum in the 100 and 200 backstroke, and Clement Lefert, who will compete in the butterfly events as well as cover for sophomore Richard Charlesworth, who will not swim because of eligibility reasons.

“The freshmen have raced a lot of [the men’s team] before in meets over the summer,” said James Martin, the men’s senior captain. “They might have some jitters at first but if we can build some momentum off the first relay the freshmen will fall into line and they will be awesome.”

The Trojans will be hoping to add to their list of NCAA Championship A and B cuts this weekend. Hosszu, DePaul, So, Krisman and freshman Jessica Schmitt have already scored NCAA consideration times for the women’s team, and Lefert and junior Dillon Connolly have scored B cuts for the men’s team so far this season.