USC begins home slate after Stanford tournament

Success at McDonald’s Swim Stadium is hardly a foreign concept for the No. 2 USC women’s water polo team. In seven of the past eight seasons, the Women of Troy have posted undefeated marks in their home waters, and they are looking to continue that trend in 2011, as well.

The USC women's water polo team has an undefeated history in its home waters that seems very promising for the rest of the 2011 season.

Following a second place finish in last weekend’s Stanford Invitational, USC (3-1) hosts Cal Baptist (4-2) in a nonconference home contest Saturday at 3 p.m.

The opening weekend tournament in Palo Alto, Calif. provided the Women of Troy with their first test of the 2011 season, facing some of the top teams in the country before eventually falling to No. 1 Stanford 10-9 in overtime of the finals.

“We’re learning from our mistakes we made last weekend. It was our first couple games as a team and we’re going to progress through the season,” said senior two-meter Kristen Dronberger. “Basically, we’re working on everything because it’s early in the season.”

But with their success, the Women of Troy hope to avoid a potential letdown against a Cal Baptist program they would have easily disposed of in previous seasons.

In 2002, the last time the two teams squared off, USC recorded a 21-0 victory over the Lancers at a tournament in Long Beach. Presently, the Women of Troy hold a 5-0 all-time mark against Cal Baptist.

As a result, the team’s defeat at the hands of Stanford has not dampened its high spirits going into Saturday’s game.

“Team mentality is actually pretty good considering we didn’t play that great of a game and still almost beat Stanford” said senior driver Joelle Bekhazi. “We still have much room to improve, and that’s given us a lot of confidence.”

One player to keep an eye on is freshman goalie Flora Bolonyai, who during the Stanford tournament proved her capabilities in the pool, recording 31 saves in four games en route to earning MPSF Newcomer of the Week honors.

“She’s doing an incredible job” Bekhazi said. “The one thing we weren’t sure of was how our goalie was going to do, and now we know that we have a really strong girl in the cage. She basically saved us in the final game last week against Stanford.”

All the players have been working together to make sure their newcomers, including Bolonyai, feel confident enough to play their best.

“It’s given me a huge amount of confidence because last weekend’s games were my first real games,” Bolonyai said. “The team has really helped me because I can always ask when there’s something new going on in defense, and they also help me greatly with blocks and communication.

One thing is for certain: The Women of Troy know they still have to work hard to regain their No. 1 ranking from last season.

“This isn’t our peak. We’re not even close to our peak, so we’re working just as hard as we were before.”