After an encouraging 15-5 victory over No. 11 UC Irvine last weekend, the No. 2 USC women’s water polo team (6-1) will kick off Mountain Pacific Sports Federation play with a matchup against No. 6 Hawai’i tonight at McDonald’s Swim Stadium.
Despite its top-10 ranking, the Rainbow Wahine have had their fair share of struggles early on this season, making the Women of Troy the odds-on favorites to win their conference opener. Thus far, Hawai’i remains just one game over .500 in addition to going just 1-3 at the Stanford Invitational and losing at California in its MPSF opener earlier this month.
Despite holding a 29-3 all-time mark against the Rainbow Wahine, including an ongoing streak of seven consecutive wins, USC does not anticipate overlooking anybody this season.
“Hawai’i can have a down game but also come out really strong,” said senior utility Forel Davies, who is second on the team with nine goals. “We understand that from playing them in the past, where we’ve beaten them by a lot but then had a close game. So no matter what, we can’t underestimate our opponent and have to come out strong knowing they’re a good team.”
Even with its inconsistency, Hawai’i does feature one of the nation’s top scorers in attacker Monika Eggens, who leads the team with 19 goals early in the 2010 season.
Although Hawai’i might be proficient on the offensive end in its own right, the Women of Troy, through just seven games, have also shown the offensive balance needed to compete with the best in the country.
“There’s been a lot of focus on the team thus far,” Davies said. “We just want to set each other up, and we’ve really been focusing on that in practice. It’s fun to have a lot of girls score and see the whole team play well.”
As usual with USC coach Jovan Vavic, defense will be the primary focus for the Women of Troy.
After Vavic said the defensive performance against Loyola Marymount in the team’s home opener “sucked,” the Women of Troy fared much better defensively last week against UC Irvine. But the team is still looking to fine-tune some of its lagging issues.
“There is still a lot to work on defensively,” Davies said. “Offense wins games but defense wins championships. That’s what we want to win — a championship. I think last week’s performance was a little better than the LMU game, but there is still a lot we need to work on.”