The men’s water polo team takes on Long Beach State Thursday, as the team looks to improve on its 16-1 overall record. This will be the second time USC faces the 49ers this fall, but this time, the Trojans will have home pool advantage. Either way, facing a team for a second time in the same season presents benefits and drawbacks that the team has to consider.
“In some aspects it’s easier because … you are aware of things that they like to do and some of those tendencies,” senior driver Blake Edwards said. “In the same way, they know your tendencies. If we have a really good game, then most likely they are going to correct those mistakes they made against us the second time.”
For the Trojans, this game is a chance to reassert their dominance. When the two sides met earlier this season, USC came away with the 13-5 victory. In that game, the 49ers were able to keep the game even by responding to USC’s goals up until halfway through the second quarter, when the Trojans finally pushed ahead to take a 7-3 lead into halftime. From there, it was USC’s defense that shined through, as senior goalie McQuin Baron ended the game with 12 saves, shutting out the 49ers for the entirety of the fourth quarter.
It is that element that the Trojans want to continue to capitalize on for the rest of the season.
“Defense is the way we win the games, and it has always been like that,” sophomore driver Marin Dasic said. “So we just have to keep practicing doing the same thing. Even if you are having a bad day, ’Quin is behind our backs, and he is doing an amazing job.”
One of the challenges Long Beach State will pose to USC comes in the form of its center, senior Duncan Lynde. He has scored 22 goals so far this season, but his ability to score is not what he is best known for: Lynde plays a very physical game that the rest of the 49ers feed off of. However, the Trojans have prepared for the challenge all week, and feel confident they know what is needed to stop Lynde.
“[Lynde] is their main strength: I would say everything is based around him,” Dasic said. “If we do a good job against him — if our holders do a good job — then I don’t think they can do much. They have decent shooters from the outside, but we have McQuin on the cage so I don’t think it’s going to be a big thing.”
Edwards agreed, saying USC was simply focused on playing its own game.
“Long Beach is a very physical team, so we’re aware of that,” Edwards said. “And [we’re] making sure we don’t engage in their offensive aspects or their play and just focus on playing intelligently and staying focused on the task.”
After taking on Long Beach State Thursday, the team will head north and face UC Santa Barbara on Sunday. Fortunately for the Trojans, they will have two days to prepare for the match — a rarity after the big tournaments they have had the last couple of weekends.
“I think it’s good to have a day in between — just a day to recover, evaluate the previous game and also to refocus for the next game,” Edwards said. “I think when you have
back-to-back games, that turnaround can sometimes be quite challenging.”
Before they look forward to resting up, however, the Trojans will focus on the 49ers. The match on Thursday begins at 5 p.m. at the Uytengsu Aquatics Center.