Women of Troy won’t overlook Bruins

The No. 9 USC women’s swimming and diving team looks to regain momentum against rival UCLA on Saturday in its last dual meet of the season.

Since easing past UC Santa Barbara in early January, USC (10-2, 3-2) has been swimming upstream in conference meets, splitting a tough double header against top-5 teams two weeks ago with an upset win at No. 5 California and a loss to No. 4 Stanford the following day. Now the Women of Troy face a competitive UCLA squad (5-3, 2-3) led by school 100-meter and 200-meter breaststroke record holder Brittany Beauchan.

“UCLA is pretty strong in the breaststroke event — they have a girl there that’s one of the top in the country,” USC coach Dave Salo said of Beauchan. “They have some bits and pieces that make them pretty strong, and this dual meet always brings out the best in both teams. You can’t count them out.”

USC will need another strong effort from several top swimmers this weekend before the Pac-10 championships begin Feb. 24.

Sophomore Katinka Hosszu and junior Lyndsay DePaul dominated at the Southern California Swimming Grand Prix at Belmont Plaza last week, finishing 1-2 respectively in the 200-yard fly with times of 1:53.99 and 1:55.45. Freshman Yumi So also swam well, taking fourth with a season-best and NCAA ‘B’ cut 1:58.88.

Junior Presley Bard, an Indiana transfer who became eligible earlier this month, continued to impress, taking fifth in both the 100-yard free (49.44) and the 200-yard back (1:56.75), while freshman diver Ariel Rittenhouse won the 3-meter springboard at the UCLA Diving Invite in Westwood with 342.40 points.

With so many standout individuals, the challenge for USC might be focusing on team goals this Saturday and in the postseason.

“We should do pretty well at the NCAA Championships if they stay together,” Salo said. “If they start branching off as individuals, I think we suffer the consequences of that. They need to rely on each other.”

The good news for the Women of Troy is that, for the first time in nearly a month, they face a team not ranked in the top 5 in the nation. The unranked Bruins swam like anchors in their past two dual meets, losing to Stanford and Cal by a combined 82 points, and have yet to beat a ranked opponent.

Then again, this is rivalry week, and, as Salo knows, that can change everything.

“When we go to the UCLA meet, everyone steps up their game,” Salo said. “It’s no different than the basketball team or the football team. It’s UCLA. We want to crush the Bruins. It makes for a real exciting meet.”