The No. 2 USC women’s water polo team will travel across town to take on No. 3 UCLA in the Bruins’ home waters this Saturday.
The Trojans, who are 22-1 overall and 4-1 in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation, already defeated UCLA this season in a decisive 10-3 victory in the championship match of the Triton Invitational back in February.
In preparation for the match, the Trojans are working on all aspects of their game.
“Our main focuses are targeting their weaknesses but at the same time finding our strengths and using them to our full advantage and staying as a team,” freshman utility Bayley Weber said.
Junior utility Maud Megens leads the Trojans this season with 58 goals, which places her at No. 2 for goals scored in the MPSF this year. Senior goalie Amanda Longan anchors the Trojan defense with 192 saves, positioning her at No. 1 in the MPSF this season. This week, Weber earned her third MPSF Newcomer of the Week Honor. Weber has recorded 27 goals in her collegiate career so far.
The USC-UCLA matchup comes with a sense of rivalry, but the Trojans are not letting it distract them from the game itself.
“We’re obviously focusing on our defense, but at the same time, knowing how big the rivalry is between us and making sure we don’t overlook them as a team because we don’t want our rivalry to overstep or be bigger than our focus on the game,” Weber said. “So still focusing like it’s a normal game but having in the back of our mind that we want to beat them too because of the rivalry.”
Junior attacker Maddie Musselman leads the Bruins with 49 goals on the season. Senior goalie Carlee Kapana has 167 saves in the book, and sophomore goalie Jahmea Bent has 80 of her own.
Two weeks ago, USC’s 36-game win streak was snapped by a loss to Stanford, which has led the Trojans to refocus on how they work as a team.
“The loss hit us really hard, but I think it brought us together even more to realize that our ultimate goal is to win,” Weber said. “We’re going to have to beat Stanford two more times up at their home, so I think the focus and the intensity have become much harder. I think it ultimately kind of helped us because we’ve come together and realized we need to make sure we’re on top of everything.”
The Trojans have been going through administrative changes this past month with the firing of Jovan Vavic, the team’s head coach for 25 years. Now, heading into the last match of the regular season, the team has become very close, Weber said.
“I think we’ve become exceptionally close to each other,” she said. “We’re with each other 24/7, so I think, even with everything that has gone on, we’ve kind of put it to the side and come to have our eyes on the prize … It’s helped us in some ways but also not helped us in other ways.”
Weber added that the team’s leaders have been crucial in keeping the squad on track.
“I think our captains are doing a great job of keeping us on the right path and just keeping everybody together,” she said. “[We’re] not thinking of outside things during practice hours and just thinking of the game.”
The match tips off at UCLA’s Spieker Aquatics Center at 4 p.m. The action will be broadcast live on Pac-12 Networks.