Familiar foe gives USC calm

When No. 1 USC women’s water polo returns to action tonight at McDonald’s Swim Stadium against foe Long Beach State, it should be a familiar setting for the Women of Troy.

Scorer · Senior Kally Lucas is the Women of Troy’s third leading scorer with 19 goals this season. Lucas’ four goals against California in the semifinals of the UC Irvine Invitational helped USC reclaim the No. 1 ranking. - Katelynn Whitaker | Daily Trojan

For the third time this season, USC (12-1, 2-0 Mountain Pacific Sports Federation) will face the 49ers (7-12) — a team that they have enjoyed victories over thus far in 2010. In the team’s February season opener, the Women of Troy handily defeated Long Beach State 13-3, and, in the first round of the UC Irvine Invitational last month, USC notched yet another impressive win against Long Beach State 12-1.

Yet, despite the pair of wins, nobody is taking anything for granted.

“We treat all teams the same,” said senior two-meter and captain Kami Craig. “We can’t be overlooking any opponent, and we just have to have everyone match up where they need to be matched up. It’s just another game, and we need to focus on playing our game.”

Even with a familiar foe on deck, it’s been a while since the Women of Troy last took the pool in a regular season matchup. Because of scheduling logistics coinciding with the university’s spring break, it has been nearly three weeks since the team’s last game — a hard-fought 7-4 home win over No. 4 California on March 6th.

In the meanwhile, USC has relied on a St. Patrick’s Day scrimmage at Hawai’i and a demanding practice schedule orchestrated by USC coach Jovan Vavic in the hopes of keeping its number one ranking alive.

“Jovan has done a really good job at keeping us up on our conditioning and playing hard,” Craig said. “We had a scrimmage against [Hawai’i], which is a big physical team. We’ve just been hitting the weights hard and hitting the water hard.”

As the Women of Troy approach their conference matchup against the 49ers, one of the distinct advantages USC will enjoy is its top-notch defensive unit.

In their two prior matchups against Long Beach State, the Women of Troy gave up four goals. On average, the team allows 4.8 goals per game, and as a result, the two goals per game average demonstrates some of the advantages USC has against the 49ers.

In particular, senior goalie Tumua Anae has enjoyed some of her best performances of the season against the 49ers with impressive save totals, allowing only one goal in their last meeting.

But, as usual, it will take a team effort to get the job done.