The No. 1 USC women’s water polo team looks to continue to wreak havoc on its opponents this weekend at the Triton Invitational in La Jolla. The Trojans will begin their tournament against Pomona-Pitzer and play three subsequent games to determine their final place in the tournament.
USC has kicked off its 2019 season in dominant fashion on both ends of the pool, outscoring opponents 140-19 in just eight games, four of which were against ranked teams.
In contrast, Pomona-Pitzer has struggled to find a win so far this season, falling in its first two games to Azusa Pacific and Loyola Marymount. While Pomona-Pitzer had a perfect 14-0 conference record last season, it fared poorly in non-conference play, resulting in a 22-11 overall record. In their meeting last season, the Trojans defeated the Sagehens 21-3.
A win against Pomona-Pitzer would advance USC to a second game on Saturday afternoon against the winner of the Loyola Marymount-Long Beach State matchup. The Women of Troy could then compete in a semifinal match on Sunday with the aim of securing a berth in that day’s championship game.
The Trojans will need to retain their well-rounded attack in order to face potential competitors in later rounds of the tournament, including No. 6 Arizona State and No. 4 UCLA. Sixteen Trojans contributed points to their two matches last weekend, and these players will need to bring the same offensive pressure against stiffer competition.
The team has also demonstrated its defensive depth early on this season. Senior goalie Amanda Longan, last year’s Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Newcomer of the Year, currently leads the MPSF conference with 12.9 saves per game. However, the Trojans’ talent in scoring is not limited to Longan. Redshirt sophomore goalie Holly Parker has played 3.5 of the Trojans’ eight games thus far, and opponents are averaging just 2 goals against her in these games.
Along with their stellar play, Longan and Parker have taken on important leadership roles in and out of the pool, which will be crucial as the competition gets tougher.
“[My goal is] obviously, to stop some shots,” Parker said. “[I also] just try to be a leader, command the defense and help to continue to improve our overall defense.”
The Trojans’ young talent has also been on display this season, with the invitational setting allowing new players to integrate themselves in the program. Freshman 2-meter Tilly Kearns has been a powerhouse scorer for the Trojans with 14 goals, the second-highest total on the team. Freshmen drivers Alejandra Aznar and Mieria Guiral also boast 13 goals apiece so far this season.
“We have a pretty young team and some new girls that have come and immediately made an impact,” Parker said. “I think [we need to] just put everything together and continue doing what we’re doing.”
Despite their early success, the Trojans look to continue improving over the course of the season, with the hope of ultimately reaching another NCAA title match.
“We need to work on 5-on-6 defense [and] improve our center plays and half-court plays to achieve [a national title] at the end of the season,” Parker said.
The match against Pomona-Pitzer will take place Saturday. With a win, the Trojans would take on the winner of LMU-Long Beach State later the same day. The semifinal and final matches take place on Sunday, as well as the consolation matches to determine each team’s tournament finish.