The No. 1 USC men’s water polo team is back in familiar waters.
One week removed from a 26-4 season opening win over Fresno Pacific in the UCI Invitational, the Trojans (1-0) face off against No. 17 Cal Baptist on Saturday in their home opener at McDonald’s Swim Stadium.
If the Trojans’ recent performance serves as an indication, they have plenty of reasons to be optimistic.
“Cal Baptist will be a good test,” senior driver Peter Kurzeka said. “We are prepared and more than ready to play this team. It will be a good start to a hopefully undefeated season at home.”
Despite an 11-7 win over the Lancers last season, the Trojans, know they cannot overlook their opponent this time around.
“We won last year fairly convincingly, but that being said, Cal Baptist is a young squad and still developing, so who knows what it has in store for us,” senior goalie Joel Dennerley said.
Though the Trojans coasted to an easy victory a week ago in their opening weekend slate, which included scrimmages against Long Beach State, Stanford and UC Irvine, they insist week one provided plenty of lessons.
“We learned [in the last game] that we need to play unselfish water polo and take what the other team gives us,” Kurzeka said. “We can’t be forcing things. We have enough talent that anyone can be scoring and we don’t need to worry about anyone in particular doing that. We just need to play as a team and work hard for each other.”
Senior captains Kurzeka and goalie Joel Dennerley, in addition to senior two-meter Matt Burton, will be relied upon in the Trojans’ season opener and over the course of the season.
Every year the senior trio has suited up for USC, they have captured an NCAA championship but they understand it will take much more this season.
“I feel confident but at the same time there is an external force that it is my last year, and there is nothing that I want more than to go out on top,” Kurzeka said. “We have that motivation every day and we’re getting in the pool knowing that it’s our last shot at it, and a shot at history as well.”
With the pressure to improve and aim for a fourth consecutive national title also comes some fun. Current players will face off against USC water polo graduates in a friendly competition in the annual water polo alumni game. Immediately following the action against Cal Baptist.
“They are very talented alumni, and some are former Olympians,” Dennerley said. “It’s always good to catch up to those former teammates.”