Two weeks ago, the USC women’s water polo team jumped into the pool at UC Irvine to take on CSU Bakersfield in the first round of the UCI Invitational. According to the schedule, the Women of Troy played a game that day, but according to the scoreboard, it was more like a shooting practice. The Trojans beat the Roadrunners 21-1, with the lone CSU goal coming in the fourth period while trailing 19-0.
Tomorrow afternoon, the Women of Troy (13-0) will once again face off against CSU Bakersfield (9-13). Despite the lack of competitiveness in the last matchup, overwhelming excitement still resonates with the team regarding the game. Tomorrow’s game will mark the beginning of an era for the newly renovated Uytengsu Aquatics Center.
“We’re definitely very, very excited,” said senior two-meter Maddie Rosenthal. “We just got to move into the locker room this week and it’s beautiful. It’s definitely the most incredible facility I’ve been able to practice in and I’m very excited to play here.”
After traveling from tournament to tournament on the road for more than a month to begin the season, the Women of Troy will finally be able to begin their home campaign in their second Mountain Pacific Sports Federation conference game in as many weeks. Last week, the Women of Troy knocked off No. 5 Arizona State to kick off conference play. In the win, freshman driver Stephania Haralabidis recorded a first-half hat trick, earning her the MPSF Newcomer of the Week award.
“Steph has been incredible and she stepped up in two big games last weekend and then this weekend against ASU,” Rosenthal said. “We haven’t had a lefty on our team in a long time and she has an incredible shot. It’s really exciting as a senior to have such a ball of fire. She’s super fast and explosive and she’s a really fun player to play with.”
The award was Haralabidis’ second conference honor in her young career, as she collected the same title two weeks ago following her performance at the UCI Invitational. At the tournament, she led the incredibly diverse offensive Trojan squad in scoring, tallying 10 goals.
Though the first meeting with the Roadrunners didn’t pose much competition for the Women of Troy, the team did not let it cloud their preparation.
“We prepare for the biggest opponent every time,” said senior defender Kelly Mendoza. “We show our best game and we don’t stoop to anyone’s level. We play our game.”
During the matchup in Irvine, 11 different Women of Troy registered goals as part of the 21-1 rout. This is not something that occurred by accident for the Cardinal and Gold.
“It’s all about playing your role and setting up your teammate,” Rosenthal said. “We talk about that a lot. You have to make the extra pass.”
The Women of Troy will put their unblemished record on the line against a CSU Bakersfield squad that enters the matches on a four-game winning streak. In order to have a performance similar to the first outcome between the two teams, USC needs to stick to its strengths and execute the game plan, Mendoza said.
“Defense, counter-attacks and focusing on each possession every single quarter,” Mendoza said. “Take one possession at a time and we will move from there.”
No one knows whether the renovated facility will bring about as much success as the former, which includes three national championships in the past decade. Regardless, onlookers can be a part of USC’s first game there tomorrow at 5 p.m.