USC water polo faces top competition at Barbara Kalbus Invite

To the top · Senior driver Stephania Haralabidis raises the ball for a pass. Haralabidis leads her team to the Barbara Kalbus Invitational this weekend. Photo courtesy of John McGillen

After a 12-day break in between games, the No. 2 USC women’s water polo team is finally back in action this weekend with a trip down to UC Irvine to participate in the 2017 Barbara Kalbus Invitational.

The Trojans (14-0) are currently riding a 41-game winning streak dating back to the end of the 2015 season and will look to defend the same tournament crown they captured a year ago in Irvine. However, those accomplishments do not mean much for this refreshed USC squad.

“We’re not thinking about what we’ve done in the past anymore because that was a different team then, and we’re a much different team now,” senior driver Stephania Haralabidis said. “We’re moving forward together and thinking as a new team with many new strengths.”

It has been a while since the Trojans last splashed down in the pool, with their most recent victory coming in the finals of the Triton Invitational in La Jolla two weekends ago. USC relied on their staunch defense in that tournament, racking up four solid wins against three ranked teams. The Trojans were led by junior goalie Victória Chamorro, who recorded 19 saves in just two games.

For her defensive efforts, the Rio Olympian was honored as the MPSF Player of the Week for the first time in her career on Feb. 14. Chamorro averages 10.5 saves and only 2.5 goals-against per game. Also splitting time in the cage has been sophomore All-American Amanda Longan, who averages 10.8 saves per game and 4.0 goals-against per game. In total, USC’s defense has only allowed 47 goals while amassing 26 scoreless periods on the season.

On the offensive side of things, USC is led by its pair of senior drivers in Stephania and Ioanna Haralabidis, who are first and third on the team with 46 and 26 goals, respectively. Standout freshman utility Maud Megens has also made her mark with 31 goals, good for second on the team, while USC has outscored its opponents by a 259-47 margin so far. In addition, a total of 16 different players on the roster have scored this season, with seven of those players being freshmen.

The 2017 Barbara Kalbus Invitational, formerly known as the UCI Invitational, will feature 16 ranked teams and six of the top seven teams in the MPSF, including No. 1 Stanford, No. 3 UCLA, No. 4 California and No. 5 Arizona State. USC will be joined in group play by No. 7 Hawai’i, No. 11 Pacific and No. 20 Loyola Marymount. The Trojans begin the tournament against the Lions on Friday at 11:15 a.m. PST, and should they come out victorious, a matchup against either the Rainbow Wahine or the Tigers awaits on Saturday at 10:30 a.m. PST for a spot in the tournament semifinals.

While a big slate of games against some top-ranked competition awaits this weekend, the Trojans are not looking to get too far ahead of themselves.

“We have to think about it as one game at a time at this point,” Ioanna Haralabidis said. “It doesn’t matter where we rank or where other teams rank, we just have to take each game one at a time.”