After dropping one spot in the rankings after a loss at Cal, the No. 2 men’s water polo team looks to rebound in its regular season finale against No. 4 UCLA on Saturday. Last weekend, the team went 1-1, falling to the now top-ranked Bears and defeating No. 5 Pacific. With a national championship on their mind, the Trojans (22-2) look to avenge an early-season loss to the Bruins (17-3) when they travel to Westwood.
When the Trojans last faced UCLA in the championship game of the Mountain Pacific Invitational on Sept. 24, they lost 13-11, going back and forth with UCLA for most of the third quarter.
“I think there were just all these little things that we messed up on and that we have gotten better at recently,” senior utility James Walters said. “Throughout the season, we’ve become a totally different team, so I’m excited to see where that will take us this weekend.”
At practices, the team has been focusing on refining its game after the disappointing loss to Cal (18-1).
“We’re going to focus a lot of our attention on finishing out high-percentage opportunities,” senior driver Blake Edwards said. “They’re critical to the overall outcome of the game.”
The Trojans last defeated the Bruins in Westwood in 2014. Though UCLA boasts a roster that includes seven seniors and eight All-Americans, Edwards said USC is ready to handle the Bruins and their home crowd.
“It’s a big opportunity,” Edwards said. “We love any game against UCLA. This team’s been together for three years now, so we’re well used to these pressured situations.”
As the match against UCLA marks the end of the regular season, the Trojans have the upcoming MPSF Tournament and the NCAA Championships in mind.
“We just want to win a national championship — that’s the one goal for everyone this season,” Walters said. “That’s the entire team. That’s all we’re thinking about. So winning the game this weekend is huge for us: We need a big win going into the MPSF Tournament.”