Men’s water polo ready for busy weekend

Brennen Lopez | Daily Trojan

After a full weekend of games at the Aggie Roundup, the men’s water polo team charges into yet an even more jam-packed weekend as it takes on UC San Diego on Thursday and then co-hosts the Mountain Pacific Invitational with Loyola Marymount Friday through Sunday.

By the end of the weekend, the Trojans will have played five full games, which is a daunting task. The Trojans know this and are trusting their training and mentally preparing for it, so they can show up to each game with the same amount of energy.

“I think the most difficult part is just going to be getting tired,” senior utility Mihajlo Milicevic said. “We just have to deal with that fatigue and we just have to stay focused and stay motivated because we have five games this week. We just have to be motivated for each game and go step by step just to stay focused.”

The Trojans’ first game on Thursday is not attached to the tournament, but it is still a significant part of their overall weekend. The team always talks about focusing on each game as it comes, but the Trojans are using the game against UCSD as a sort of trial run for the tournament. It will be at the Uytengsu Aquatics Center, like the tournament, and will give them a chance to show their home crowd what kind of play to expect this weekend.

“It is going to be a great game,” Milicevic said. “It is going to be more of a great practice for us before the tournament because San Diego is a great opponent. It’s just more for us to prepare for the tournament.”

Nine games into the season and still undefeated, the Trojans know how important each game is to reaching their goal of a national championship title. Even though they have conquered each opponent so far, they know that they have a long way to go before they will be satisfied. This weekend plays right into that mindset, as they plan to take each game at a time and learn from them in order to play even better the next game.

“Every practice we have, we practice different plays and different strategies,” Milicevic said.  “We tried to implement that during those games, and it helped us find out more about each other — what are our weaknesses, what are our strengths and what we should work on in the future.”

The tournament is setting up to be a big one. The Trojans will start off by facing San Jose State on Friday. With a victory, they will come up against either UC Irvine or UC Santa Barbara Saturday morning. From there, they have a chance at a rematch, as they could end up taking on Long Beach State or Stanford again Saturday evening. The biggest potential match would be the final on Sunday, as the Trojans, if they make it to the finals, could potentially play Cal, which beat them last season at the national championships. For USC, making it to that game is the goal so that it can redeem itself and show Cal that this year is different.

More than anything, though, the Trojans are excited to play this next set of games at home in front of their crowd of loyal fans. After a long weekend away, they are happy to be back at the Uytengsu Aquatics Center. For them, the atmosphere is different at home than away, and they feel the crowd helps them with their energy and ultimately in protecting their house.

“It is always great playing at USC, at our own pool,” Milicevic said. “It is just completely different. It is going to help us a lot.”

The Trojans’ game against UC San Diego begins at 5 p.m. on Thursday at the Uytengsu Aquatics Center.