USC set to begin conference play

It’s already five games into the young season, but the No. 2 USC women’s water polo team has yet to face its biggest challenge.

Tonight, USC travels to No. 12 Long Beach State hoping to improve its record to 5-1 against the 49ers.

This game, however, is only half of their weekend — USC kicks off conference play at No. 7 San Diego State on Saturday.

The Women of Troy know this weekend is important for them, as they have the opportunity to set the tone for the entire season of conference games.

“The first conference game is pretty big,” said sophomore driver Dominique Sardo. “We can just go out and set the standard. We just want to go out there and dominate to be exact and we want to show everybody what we can do so that they kind of get scared of us.”

Coming off last week’s 19-4 victory against Cal Baptist, the team is feeling confident and is looking forward to bringing their highly competitive attitudes to Long Beach and San Diego State.

“We’re definitely looking to make a statement to let people know that we mean business and want to win the National Championship again,” said freshman two-meter Madeline Rosenthal. “We don’t take any team lightly and we want to show people that even though we lost a lot of people last year that we can still beat teams like Long Beach and San Diego.”

A big part of USC’s success so far is the the play of the newcomers on the team.

Many new players, like Rosenthal and freshman goalie Flora Bolonyai, have stepped up.

These young girls, however, still acknowledge they have a long way to go.

“The team is definitely trying to make me better, toughen me up and make sure I’m keeping up with all the new material because it’s a brand new system for me,” Rosenthal said.

Many of the veterans on the team have also stepped up and become role models and mentors for the younger girls, helping the new teammates to feel comfortable with a new team.

“Kristen Dronberger is one of the best players I’ve ever seen,” said Rosenthal. “As a freshman, I totally strive to be the kind of player she is. Joelle Bekhazi is also so knowledgeable and has almost become my mentor in a sense.”

All these factors contribute to a more important goal for the team: Coming together as a unit.

And the Women of Troy know if they are to repeat as champions, their success hinges on the effort of everybody.

“We’re coming together really well as a team unit,” Sardo said “Every practice day by day we get better and we learn to work with each other better. We’re all coming together and keeping the high energy in the practices and just trying to keep each other confident and keep our heads in the game.”