The No. 1 USC women’s water polo team takes great pride in its defense, but Thursday’s 18-4 thrashing of unranked Long Beach State at McDonald’s Swim Stadium was a celebration of the Women of Troy’s offensive prowess.
Facing Long Beach State for the third time this season, the Women of Troy (13-1, 2-0 MPSF) overpowered the helpless 49ers (7-13) on the offensive end of the pool. Led by senior utility Forel Davies, who scored six, USC totaled 10 scores in just the first 12 minutes of the contest. And as usual, USC coach Jovan Vavic was quick to credit the defense for the success.
“Our defense was very good,” Vavic said. “We played very disciplined defense, we showed hands, and we didn’t commit any silly ejections. And then, we were able to convert our shots. Pretty simple.”
But it was Davies who got the team on track in the early minutes. The senior, whose previous career high for single-game goals stood at three, recorded a hat trick within the first quarter alone to help ignite the rest of the offense.
“Lately, I’ve been trying to play the game more than anything else,” Davies said. “I’m really just focusing on having fun and being patient. That really helped to calm me down and not be jittery early on.”
But for USC, it wasn’t a one-woman show that powered them to a victory. In addition to Davies’ six goals, eight other players found a way to get on the scoreboard, including junior driver Joelle Bekhazi, who also netted a hat trick, including two in the second half.
“I know this is cliché, but teamwork was a big part of the win,” Davies said. “We just try on focusing on setting each other up and being positive and happy when other people score.”
Even with a lead in the early parts of the game, the Women of Troy refused to be complacent as the game wore on, scoring eight second-half goals to cap an impressive outing.
“We stayed focused,” said Vavic on his team’s consistency throughout all four quarters. “The last couple of games, we didn’t play that great in the fourth quarter. So this was just a better performance throughout the entire game.”
Balance remained one of the team’s strong suits against the 49ers, as the defense was seemingly as stifling as the offense was proficient. Facing an aggressive front, Long Beach State was unable to get on the scoreboard until the latter minutes of the first half when a Krizia Cerda shot snuck past USC senior goalie Tumua Amae.
But it wouldn’t be until midway through the fourth quarter the 49ers would score again on Amae, who finished with 13 total saves.
“We were focused, but [Long Beach State] is still a very young team,” Vavic said. “That youth showed today.”
Even while notching yet another conference victory, the Women of Troy won’t be getting much rest anytime soon, as they are scheduled to face No. 14 San Diego State on Saturday at home. A win would mark their 12th straight in the season as they head toward the heart of Mountain Pacific Sports Federation play.
San Diego State (16-10, 0-4) is coming off a disappointing loss to Hawai’i in which utility Amber Pezzolla contributed a hat trick, but the Aztecs were unable to muster enough to hang with the Rainbow Wahine.
Pezzolla is the Aztec’s leading scorer with 42 goals on the season, and also leads the team in assists.
Containing Pezzolla and getting past goalie Kelly Campoli will be key to any success the Women of Troy hope to have against the Aztecs.