Looking to extend its current winning streak to 10 games, the newly crowned No. 1 USC women’s water polo team will have its hands full on Saturday, as No. 4 California heads south to McDonald’s Swim Stadium to face off against the Women of Troy.
Following an impressive performance at the UC Irvine Invitational, where the Women of Troy (11-1, 1-0) captured the tournament title with a resounding victory over then-No. 1 Stanford, the Women of Troy will take on a familiar conference foe in the Golden Bears (12-4, 2-1) — a team they have enjoyed much success against in recent years.
Just last week they defeated Cal 10-5 in the semifinals of the UCI Invitational, and they currently hold a 10-game winning streak against their Northern California rivals. Nonetheless, the Women of Troy remain focused.
“You have to be careful not to overlook any of your opponents,” said senior two-meter Kami Craig. “Cal is a very strong team this year. We know we have to play good defense and strong offense to beat them, so we have to prepare like any other game and get ready for a battle out there.”
But despite their recent struggles against USC, the Golden Bears still remain a serious threat to the Women of Troy’s conference title aspirations. For one, Cal, which is still ranked in the top five, features one of the most dangerous goal scorers in the country — sophomore driver Emily Csikos.
Csikos, who is also a member of the Canadian national team, and has already scored 42 goals this season, placing her among the nation’s best. Through just 16 games, Csikos averages nearly three goals per game and remains a nightmare for opposing defenses.
“We always have to know where she is in the pool and play tight defense on her,” Craig noted. “If we know someone has the ability to score that much in one game or a season, we’re definitely watching out for her the entire game.”
Craig also looks to continue her strong play in recent weeks. Craig, who scored four goals in the conference opener against Hawai’i and four goals in the UCI Invitational, was honored Monday with the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Player of the Week for the third time in her illustrious career.
But as usual, the Women of Troy will not rely on one player to shoulder the load on offense and will instead resort to a balanced offensive attack.
“We have a lot of girls who get points up on the board,” Craig said. “Everyone has the confidence to shoot the ball. No one is scared to not shoot the ball. Everyone is just going after it and we make it happen.”
If the Women of Troy can once again spread the offense around, it’s quite likely that their current winning streak against Cal would extend to 11 straight victories.