Coming into this weekend’s Lancer Invitational at Cal Baptist University, the USC women’s water polo team was ranked second in the nation and first among participating schools. After the final whistle of the game against Concordia on Saturday, the Women of Troy left no doubt that they were the team to beat in Riverside.
Energized by a selfless offense — the Women of Troy had 13 different scorers on the day — USC jumped out to an early 7-0, first-quarter lead and never looked back, going on to win the game 24-6.
Junior attacker Kelly Mendoza opened the scoring with two quick goals within the first two minutes, and junior driver Olivia Cummins added two more before the next minute had elapsed. Speed was the key for the Trojans’ offense as the team scored early and often — usually without a defender between the ball and the goal.
Along with Cummins, sophomore driver Monica Vavic led the team with four goals, including a scorching five-meter penalty shot that found the back of the net in the fourth quarter to put the Trojans up 23-3. Also tacking on goals for the Trojans were seniors drivers Constance Hiller and Dominique Sardo, juniors two-meters Kaleigh Gilchrist (3), Madeline Rosenthal, Colleen O’Donnell, sophomore driver Sara Salamon (2), freshmen two-meters Jayde Appel (2) and Courtney Walters (2) and freshman driver Emilie Myers.
Sardo, one of the team’s captains, wasn’t surprised at all by the number of different scorers. “We’re all confident in each other,” Sardo said. “We all trust each other to do the right things.”
Gilchrist, the other team captain, put it a little bit more bluntly.
“The ultimate goal is to win, you know? Who cares about stats? Who cares about goals?”
Maybe the players themselves aren’t concerned with their personal statistics, but you can bet that upcoming opponents will be wary of the offensive potential of this team.
Though the team has started strong, opening the season with a perfect 8-0 record, USC coach Jovan Vavic sees room for the squad to improve.
“We’ve got to play a little quicker,” Vavic said. “Sometimes we’re taking too long to make the next pass or to set each other up.”
The Women of Troy will look to keep up the winning streak this weekend as they enter the UCI Invitational in Irvine before conference play begins the following weekend.