After six consecutive home games, the No. 1 USC women’s water polo team will leave the friendly confines of McDonald’s Swim Stadium and head east to Tempe, Ariz., for a Mountain Pacific Sports Federation matchup against No. 9 Arizona State.
USC’s (17-1, 3-0) battle-tested defense face an Arizona State (15-10, 0-5) squad that has at times looked like an offensive juggernaut. The Sun Devils are ranked third in the MPSF in goals per game at 11.08, narrowly trailing Stanford and USC.
Additionally, Arizona State features two of the league’s top goal scorers in attacker Lynlee Smith and center Shannon Haas. Both are presently ranked in the top 10 for goals scored with 45 and 38, respectively, making the ASU attack even more potent.
But even with the Sun Devils’ offensive aptitude, the Women of Troy, which have won 15 consecutive games, is more than capable of stopping the dynamic duo. Currently, the team’s defense is ranked second in the conference, allowing just 4.83 goals per game, and in the past 10 games has not yielded more than six goals to the opposition.
“We’ve become more defensively oriented now,” said USC coach Jovan Vavic. “The girls are actually starting to think about defense.”
There is no question the Women of Troy defense has been able to stifle some of the toughest teams in the nation, USC’s offense might be even more dangerous.
“We can score goals too,” Vavic said. “That’s nothing new.”
And scored goals they have.
The Women of Troy are ranked first in the conference in scoring with 12.78 goals per game — a clear indication of the team’s balanced scoring attack. Five players, including senior two-meter Kami Craig, rank within the MPSF’s top-20 goal scorers — more than any other team in the conference.
“I just think, game by game, the team has really been growing overall,” Craig said. “It’s a total team effort in how you play. Offensively, we’re equally balanced. A lot of girls can get points on the board, and, in the end, it’s cool having so many girls up on the scoreboard.”
That philosophy will serve the Women of Troy well as they take to the road just one week before the scheduled crosstown grudge match with heated rival UCLA at home.