USC gears up for first true test of the season

The USC men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams are headed out to the desert this weekend to face their first major tests in the pool.

The swim teams, both of which finished in the top-10 last in the country last year, will face Arizona on Friday and Arizona State on Saturday. While not overlooking Arizona State, Arizona figures to be one of the tougher tests the Trojans will face all season.

“The Wildcats are one of the top five teams in the country year in and year out,” USC coach Dave Salo said. “[They] always bring their ‘A’ game against us and under first year head coach Eric Hansen we expect maybe an ‘A+’ game.”

Both teams have had about 20 days since their last competitive action. Still, Salo expects a solid performance from his squads, despite the fact that there has been a layoff.

“It is time for the Trojans to send the message that we are building off our successes of last year,” Salo said. “Our goal for this weekend of competition is to post some of the top times thus far in the early season.”

Salo said the team will look to sophomore Vladimir Morozov and sophomore Dimitri Colupaev on the men’s side to lead the team to what is hopefully a successful first Pac-12 meet. Morozov was the Pac-10 Newcomer of the Year last season and is one of the top swimmers in the country. He was an All-American in four events last season and looks primed to be even better this season. Colupaev, who is a sophomore as well, was an All-American in three events.

On the women’s side, senior Katinka Hosszu and junior Haley Anderson will be crucial to the women’s chances, according to Salo. Hosszu was the NCAA swimmer of the year and the winner of the Honda Award last season and was an All-American in four events, including the 200-yard fly and the 500-yard freestyle. Anderson was an All-American in 1650-yard freestyle and as part of the 800-yard freestyle relay team last season.

Salo pointed out that because the Olympics occur in 2012, some of his swimmers will be focused on not only performing well in the collegiate ranks, but in qualifying for the Olympics as well. This week’s contests against Arizona, who finished fifth the country last season, and the Sun Devils cannot be taken lightly, according to Salo. The meets in Arizona are crucial to the Trojans getting off to a great start for what could be a special year.

“This is an exciting year for us,” Salo said. “As we are coming off one of our most successful [seasons in] the past 10 years.”

The meet against Arizona begins Friday at 2 p.m. in Tucson, Ariz., while the contest against the Sun Devils will begin Saturday at 11 a.m. in Tempe, Ariz.