This weekend, the USC women’s water polo team will welcome the UCLA Bruins in the Trojans’ final match of the regular season. The rivalry game comes after USC’s final, and arguably toughest, back-to-back of the 2018 regular season. It is no easy feat for any team to succeed in contests on consecutive days, and even more difficult to do so on the road. Making matters just that much tougher, USC was slated to face two ranked teams including the nation’s top-ranked squad No. 1 Stanford.
After falling at the hands of the Cardinal in late February, the Trojans were out for revenge last Friday when they traveled to Palo Alto for the heavyweight bout. One of the keys to success for Stanford in the first meeting of the 2018 season was the Cardinal’s ability to strike early and often against the Trojan defense. Stanford picked up 3 goals in the first period as well as another 4 in the second to take a commanding, and ultimately decisive, 7-3 lead at halftime. This time things would be much different.
In the first quarter, USC made it out to a quick 3-0 lead over the nation’s top-ranked squad. Despite a couple scores from the Cardinal, the Trojans managed to carry a 4-2 lead into the half — a scoring increase over their first meeting against Stanford. In the second half, USC would benefit from another 3-0 scoring run that gave the Women of Troy a lead they would hold until the end, delivering the team a crucial 8-5 victory.
As expected, freshman driver Paige Hauschild was again the centerpiece of the USC victory as she, as well as senior utility Hayley McKelvey, netted 3 crucial goals for the Trojans. Furthermore, junior goaltender Amanda Longan came up big throughout the day, picking up 16 saves on the match and helping to stop eight of 10 Cardinal power plays as well as a Stanford penalty shot in the fourth quarter.
“We came into this game with no fear,” Longan said. “Our confidence, this time, made all the difference.”
The following day, the Trojans marched into San José to take on the No. 21 Spartans on their home turf. This time, USC found much smoother sailing as they dominated San José State 12-1 — scoring the first eight goals of the match before conceding a power play score in the fourth period. McKelvey and Hauschild were, again, difference makers as both picked up a pair of goals while senior driver Brianna Daboub scored a hat trick of her own.
As things stand now, the Trojans have moved up to the top of the CWPA polls. With an incredibly impressive 20-1 record, and their sole loss coming from Stanford, USC has shown they can beat any team that comes their way. Whether in prolific shootouts or low-scoring affairs, the Trojans have constantly found a way to prevail this year and are lined up to receive the recognition they deserve.
This weekend, the squad will complete the regular season schedule with a match against crosstown rival UCLA at the Uytengsu Aquatics Center. Although the Trojans have done well over the course of the season — especially this past weekend — there are still a lot of areas where the team can improve.
“We’re focused on making the most of the time that we have,” Daboub said regarding the team’s focus. “We need to take every single day, every single practice as an opportunity to improve.”
The Women of Troy took the first contest against UCLA in early February this year by a 6-4 margin to claim the Triton Invitational Championship. Though the Bruins are not necessarily having a poor season, they have found it tough to overcome the other elite water polo squads in the state. In a combined five matches against USC, Cal and Stanford, UCLA has only managed to win one match, with the other four being their only losses this season.
The game will be aired on the Pac-12 Network on Saturday at 7 p.m.