A lot has happened since the women’s water polo team past played a game at home. In the last six weeks, the Trojans have traveled across the Southland, up north and to the islands of Hawaii, tacking on 13 more wins to regain the top spot in every national poll and setting a new national women’s water polo record with their 47th consecutive victory over spring break.
On Thursday, that streak was extended to 49 in a row as the No. 1 Trojans (22-0) defeated visiting No. 10 Princeton (16-2) in a non-conference tilt, 12-3, at the Uytengsu Aquatics Center.
The Trojans were posed with a tough task in going up against Princeton goalkeeper Ashleigh Johnson, who had been averaging just 3.5 goals-against per game this season after leading Team USA to a gold medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics. However, not even she could stop a blistering Trojan offense that came out of the gates on fire in the first half.
Four different Trojans scored in the opening frame to give USC a quick 6-0 advantage, led by freshman utility Maud Megens’ hat trick. In the second period, solid defending resulted in numerous field blocks and steals that led to USC goals, including strikes from senior two-meter Brigitta Games and junior utility Hayley McKelvey. Eventually, two more goals by Megens extended the lead to 10-1, as she accounted for half of USC’s goals scored by the end of the half.
It was a defensive battle in the third frame, as the Trojans were held to just one goal scored by freshman driver Denise Mammolito with 48 seconds left. However, USC also held Princeton scoreless to take the commanding 11-1 lead into the final period. Princeton would punch in two more goals, but one more score by junior driver Brianna Daboub would make the final tally 12-3 in favor of the Trojans. In all, seven different Trojans scored on the afternoon, led by Megens with five goals and Daboub with two.
Although Megens’ hot hand helped the Trojans outpace the Tigers on the offensive end, she credits her team’s passing and defense as the difference makers in Thursday’s match.
“I think we started with good defense as a team, and from that defense we had fast breaks and some good transitions,” Megens said. “We got some great passes from side to side and we really made their goalie move, which allowed us to score.”
Daboub, too, noted that the defensive adjustments the team made before and during the game were key in the victory.
“I think when we were back in Hawaii last week, we kind of got away from the fundamentals and our defense,” Daboub said. “So this week, we really focused on getting back to the fundamentals on defense and just doing the little things right, and I thought today was a much better effort on everyone’s part.”
And while much of the hype surrounded the Tigers’ goalie on the defensive end, it was USC’s pair of netminders who stole the show. Sophomore goalkeeper Amanda Longan put up seven saves in the first half, while junior goalie Victória Chamorro had four saves in the cage to close out the game.
With the victory, the Trojans remain perfect on the season at 22-0 and improve to 3-0 all-time against the Tigers, while the visitors fall to 16-2 overall and had their four-match winning streak snapped by USC.
The Trojans will now get to stay in their home water for the weekend as they gear up for a pair of matches at the Uytengsu Aquatics Center this Saturday. The doubleheader will begin with a conference tilt against No. 14 San Jose State (9-13) at 1 p.m. PST, followed directly after by a non-conference match against No. 18 Hartwick (10-5) at approximately 2:30 p.m. PST. USC owns a combined 42-0 record against the two opponents in the all-time series and will look to extend its record-winning streak to 51 games in a row.