The season is fully underway for the No. 2 women’s water polo team, which hits the road this weekend for the Triton Invitational. The San Diego tournament brings together 16 top-ranked teams from the California area, providing potentially four games of solid competition across two days.
The Trojans earned the top seed in a bracket including No. 13 UC Santa Barbara, No. 18 San Diego State and unranked Sonoma State. They will start tournament play against Sonoma State, a team that USC has never faced in program history. The Trojans have fared well so far this season against unranked opponents, demolishing Cal Baptist 20-0 and Pomona-Pitzer 21-3 two weeks ago, and the team carries confidence into the tourney opener.
“We’re still working on rotating in the younger players and giving everyone time to get comfortable as a unit,” senior captain Brianna Daboub said. “We’re still finding our rhythm and figuring out a lot of little parts of the game, so this weekend will be really good for us.”
If the Trojans win the opener, they’ll have one more matchup on Saturday and two more on Sunday. With 12 ranked teams in the tournament pool, those games could give the team the chance to play three more ranked opponents. However, the team’s sights are set at the end of the tournament, which offers a possibility to face off against UCLA in the final game.
Although it’s only a possibility, any opportunity to face off against UCLA is a cause for excitement for the Trojans. In the history of collegiate water polo, only four teams have made it to the NCAA final — Stanford, Cal, USC and UCLA. The finals of the MPSF and NCAA tournament this year can be expected to come down between these four teams, and a chance at facing the Bruins early in the season will give the squad a chance to size up its competition.
The Bruins will be led by head coach Adam Wright, who enters his first year with the women’s team after earning accolades coaching the men’s side for UCLA. The Bruins also lost valuable seniors at the end of last season, but its younger players integrated effectively in a season opening victory over Loyola Marymount. The headliner of that young corps is sophomore Maddie Musselman, who Longan describes as a player who can make the difference between a win and a loss for any team.
“At any point in the season, [playing UCLA] is a good barometer for where we’re at as a team,” team captain and goalie Amanda Longan said. “We look forward to it, and I think it’s good because it gets us going and keeps us looking forward.”