A clash between two powerhouse rivals that have only lost to each other all season might top the list of statement games.
The No. 1 USC women’s water polo team will treat their fans to such a matchup as they visit the No. 2 Stanford Cardinal (21-1, 6-0) on Saturday at 4 p.m. You are excused if, amid all the excitement surrounding this contest, you overlook the USC women’s water polo team’s Friday away game against the No. 6 San Jose State (16-11, 2-4) Spartans — just trust that the Women of Troy (19-1, 5-0) are not.
A grounded group all season long, this team knows that if it flounders against the Spartans, Saturday’s game will not matter nearly as much. After a 15-5 win against San Jose State at the UC Irvine Invitational, the Women of Troy improved to 20-0 all time against their MPSF foe. But, according to senior utility Forel Davies, history is irrelevant.
“Like any team we go up against, we need to establish a good press and keep tight lanes,” Davies said.
When discussing the Spartans, players might as well have been reading from a teleprompter, intent on communicating that their focus extends to all opponents. However, the players’ fiery spirit and quirky personalities shone through when asked about the Stanford game. The Women of Troy responded excitedly when asked if they want to send Stanford a message for the postseason with a strong showing on Saturday.
Having met twice already, these teams know each other well.
Stanford is led by two-meter Melissa Seidemann, who tops the Cardinal with 40 goals on the season. Cardinal goalies Amber Oland and Kate Baldoni split time between the pipes, and both have impressive goals-against averages.
Understandably, the players were reluctant to offer any specific insight into their game plan but reiterated that their success is largely dependent on their defensive effort and execution. Often, their offense is successful when they generate turnovers and have quick odd-man advantages the other way.
Having already matched up against the Cardinal once before, the Women of Troy are reading for an attack they know will be strong.
“We expect them to play great two-meter defense and to come out hard,” junior two-meter Kristen Dronberger said. “They will probably look to stop [senior driver] Kally [Lucas] and [junior driver] Joelle [Bekhazi] and focus on our shooters.”
This game will determine the top seed for the MPSF, which could prove important in the conference tournament. Although many pundits expect these two teams to meet in the finals regardless of the Saturday’s outcome, this weekend’s game will play a large role in establishing momentum.
The Women of Troy are eager to prove that their early-season loss was a fluke and that their team, which now leads the MPSF in both goals per game and goals allowed per game, can be considered among the best in USC women’s water polo history.