After splitting a grueling weekend against two of the nation’s top teams, the No. 7 USC women’s swimming team will face off against its final regular season opponent this Friday when the Trojans take on the No. 19 UCLA Bruins in Westwood.
With regard to rankings and records, the Bruins (6-3, 3-3 Pac-12) don’t quite stack up to the Trojans’ opponents of this past weekend, but USC (7-2, 5-1) will have to come out of the gates with the same intensity as they did against Cal and Stanford in order to have a successful conclusion to the season.
UCLA is coming off a weekend against the same opponents, but the Bruins didn’t have quite as much success. While the Trojans came out of the weekend with a plus-two differential against the Bears and the Cardinal, UCLA fell to both schools by a combined 135 points. With the Pac-12 Championships just a week and a half away, each crosstown rival would love to head into the postseason with a little more momentum than the other.
Despite the Bruins’ lower ranking, beating them in their pool is no easy task. USC head coach Dave Salo, in his 10th year at the helm, knows better than to overlook the Bruins in Westwood.
“They always swim lights-out at home,” Salo said. “We know it’s going to be a tough battle against a strong team in a hostile environment.”
Still, the Trojans might just have an edge in a venue that, on paper, should be stacked against them.
“Our secret weapon will be our men’s team and our parent and booster clubs,” Salo said. “We would rather swim at home, but a win at the opposing team’s pool is always special.”
Judging by past performances this season, the Trojans have the edge in just about every category when matched up against UCLA. So far, USC has outperformed UCLA in each of the different 16 events, with the exception of both diving events and the 400-yard individual medley relay.
Senior co-captains Lucy Worrall and Kendyl Stewart will look to improve upon last weekend’s results, which included a toppling of the reigning NCAA champion Cal and a slim 4-point defeat at the hands of the Stanford, the nation’s second-ranked team. The seniors won’t be the only swimmers to watch, however, as a pair of freshmen dazzled against Cal and Stanford — Allie Wooden and Elizabeth Stinson finished first and second, respectively, two meets in a row in the 1000-yard freestyle, and they will hope to continue their success in Westwood.
After the meet against UCLA, the Trojans will head into the Pac-12 championships beginning Feb. 24 in Washington. Depending on their performance in the conference tournament, they may be selected to participate in the NCAA championships, which take place in the middle of March.
The action begins Friday at 2 p.m. at UCLA’s Spieker Aquatics Center.