After securing a commanding 13-8 win over UC Irvine on Saturday, the men’s water polo team will travel to Irvine, Calif., to take on Concordia on Friday before facing San Jose State at home Saturday for senior day.
The Trojans, ranked No. 1 in the nation with a 19-1 record, plan to use Friday and Saturday’s matchups as practice heading into their final regular-season stretch against No. 3 Cal, No. 5 Pacific and No. 2 UCLA.
Neither of USC’s opponents this weekend is particularly formidable: Concordia sits at 9-8 on the season, and San Jose State already lost to the Trojans 18-9 at the Uytengsu Aquatics Center last month. But as USC looks to use this weekend as a springboard into the stretch run, the team is determined to retain full focus.
“Obviously, we’re a better team than [Concordia and San Jose State], but usually when you play those kind of games, the focus is not really up high,” senior driver Matteo Morelli said. “So we’ve got to focus on jumping into the water as if we’re playing the NCAA final, as if we’re playing Cal, UCLA or Stanford.”
But the Trojans aren’t facing those elite sides just yet. Concordia is coming off a 10-7 win over Air Force last Sunday, but the Eagles suffered a 20-2 drubbing at the hands of UC Davis the week before. San Jose State, on the other hand, has won four matches on the trot and sports a 13-8 overall record — but the Spartans are also winless on the road this season (0-5).
Morelli said the Trojans have been focusing on playing the cleanest game possible. Neither Concordia nor San Jose State is ranked, giving USC an opportunity to perfect its game.
“We’re going to get a lot of fast break opportunities,” Morelli said. “We’ve got to focus on not missing a high percentage of shots [or] opportunities and try to not give up any goals.”
Senior utility James Walters, a captain, said that rather than focus on specific improvements, the team has been working on improving its overall game in practices.
“We’re watching video, we’re working on it and we’re seeing little things we can fix here and there,” Walters said. “At the end of the day, we’re just going to work hard in order to get to those games where we can prove ourselves.”
While Walters said the upcoming games against Cal, Pacific and UCLA take priority, the team is also looking forward to Saturday’s senior day festivities before the game against San Jose State, which will honor the team’s 13 seniors.
“Growing up here the past couple of years, we’ve gotten to see all the seniors [go through senior day] — it’s always a happy time for them with their parents,” Walters said. “So I’m looking forward to it. I think it should be fun.”
USC’s tilt at Concordia begins at 1:30 p.m. on Friday, and the Trojans will return to the Uytengsu Aquatics Center to take on San Jose State at 1 p.m. on Saturday.