USC trying not to overlook Hartwick

After a frustrating 8-3 loss to No. 2 California in early March, recent weeks have been kinder to the No. 3 USC women’s water polo team.

Since the Women of Troy’s five-point defeat, they have notched five consecutive victories.

Offensive threat · Senior driver Joelle Bekhazi is one of USC’s top scoring weapons, ranking fourth on the team with 23 goals this season. - Daily Trojan file photo

Before a showdown against No. 1 Stanford at home Saturday, USC (14-3) will welcome unheralded Hartwick to McDonald’s Swim Stadium.

But even without a high ranking in the polls, the Hawks have won 15 straight games following a 14-5 win over Pomona-Pitzer on Tuesday.

The Women of Troy are also surging, coming off weekend wins over No. 20 Maryland (16-7), and No. 6 Loyola Marymount (13-8).

The team seems to be getting back to its normal self after consecutive losses to Stanford and California in early March, with an array of goal-scoring contributers in recent matches.

The Women of Troy punched in 16 goals against Maryland, and those goals came from 10 different girls.

They also used eight scorers to notch 13 against LMU, improving their offensive attack.

“When we played Maryland last week, we were leading just 5-3 after two quarters. Hartwick has beaten Maryland, so we have to work on Hartwick,” said USC coach Jovan Vavic.

Vavic believes one of the biggest challenges facing the Women of Troy on Wednesday will be dealing with the unusual strategy Hartwick uses throughout its games.

“They are a very well coached team, we played them last year and it was a good game. They do some unorthodox things. They play really different than many California schools,” Vavic said. “Hartwick runs different plays, likes to play trick plays and they surprise people that aren’t ready for them. We’re going to play an intense game and focus on our game when we’re down a man and up a man.”

With an unknown opponent, at least to some degree, the Women of Troy know they cannot overlook anybody, especially with a big matchup against Stanford looming.

“We’re trying to take this week as a challenge, and I think it’s good to have a game tomorrow,” said senior driver Joelle Bekhazi. “We’re going to get the kinks out for Stanford and it’ll just be an opportunity for us to prepare even more.”

The Women of Troy are confident about both their games this week, especially because both are home games.

“It really helps because just being familiar, being in your own pool, everything is more comfortable so it’ll be a lot better for us,” Bekhazi said. “Having our fans here will really help us out. Stanford is coming to our pool, and we’re going to show them that we are USC.”