After rising to a No. 3 rank, the women’s water polo team will look to add its third-straight title victory at the Barbara Kalbus Invitation this weekend. The Trojans have won the last two years’ tournaments, which have been hosted by UC Irvine.
Over three days, the team will have the chance to face four opponents, including top competitors such as No. 1 Stanford, No. 2 Cal and No. 4 UCLA. The tournament is a chance for the top teams in the MPSF and the nation to face off. From year to year, it is a consistently competitive weekend, but this year, the tournament will feature 16 top-20 teams, providing a truly elite lineup of competition.
The weekend for the Trojans will start out with a matchup against San Jose State on Friday. The No. 18 team will provide a solid challenge to begin the weekend, but the team’s eyes will be set on the second game of the tourney. A win over San Jose State would result in a game against the winner of the opening game between No. 6 Arizona State and No. 15 UC San Diego on Saturday. An opportunity to face the Sun Devils this early in the tournament would be a welcome trial for the Trojans, who often duel with them in the MPSF tournament.
A pair of opening victories would give the Trojans a berth into the semifinal game on Saturday night. The ultimate goal of the tournament is to reach the championship game on Sunday, which could set the team against any of its in-state foes. The Trojans already took down the Bruins in a 6-4 victory in the title game of the Triton Invitational two weeks ago. The win gave the Trojans their fifth-straight championship in the tournament, highlighted by two goals from standout freshman driver Paige Hauschild, who scored the final goal to clinch the 2-point advantage. Hauschild went on to win MPSF Newcomer of the Week following her performance in the tournament. The award was her second in only six weeks of NCAA play.
Although the Trojans took home the title thanks to a ferocious offensive effort — with senior captain driver Brianna Daboub notching her 100th career goal in the semifinal victory over UC Irvine — it was the defense that held down the championship for USC. Goalkeepers senior Victoria Chamorro and junior Amanda Longan split time in the net, with Chamorro earning 27 saves on the weekend and Longan picking up 23 in the semifinal and championship match.
A similar defensive effort will be necessary for the Trojans this weekend, as they will most likely face off against two of the top four teams in the nation. The team has yet to face Cal and Stanford so far this season, but all three teams are well-acquainted as they will play each other a handful of times in regular season games and tournaments, as well as in the MPSF and NCAA tournaments. The matchups are not set in stone yet, but the Trojans can expect a challenge no matter which of their in-state rivals they face at the finish line.