Women’s water polo turns its attention to Riverside

After dropping to No. 3 in the national polls, the Trojans will look to make an impact this weekend at the CBU Mini Invitational in Riverside.

Senior utility Annika Jensen prepares to take a shot against the Chinese National Team. Emily Smith | Daily Trojan

The one-day tourney will give the team an opportunity to notch two more wins against Cal Baptist and Pomona-Pitzer.

The Trojans’ afternoon will start out against the hosts, Cal Baptist, who have yet to win a game this season. The Lancers dropped three losses at their season opening UCSB Winter Invite, falling to Cal State Northridge, UC Santa Barbara and Arizona State. Despite the losses, the team has thrived on defense so far this season, with goalie Grace Ramirez averaging 10 saves and 8.5 goals-against in her first three games.

Later in the afternoon, the Trojans will take on Pomona-Pitzer in their opponent’s first game of the season. Although Pomona-Pitzer went 16-18 last season, many key upperclassman starters, including top scorer Jocelyn Castro, who notched 44 goals last season, are returning this season.

The Trojans have never lost a game to either team, going 12-0 against Cal Baptist and 8-0 against Pomona-Pitzer historically. The last time the teams met, USC left the pool with major victories, thundering to a 22-1 victory over Cal Baptist and a 25-2 win over Pomona-Pitzer.

The weekend will offer an opportunity for the team to practice its offensive schemes, setting itself up for success later on in the season.

The Trojans opened the season with a dominant 18-0 shutout of then-No. 22 LMU, and they look to continue that momentum through a series of unranked opponents early in the season.

Before the invitational, the Trojans took to the pool for a friendly match against a rare opponent on Thursday night. The team hosted the Chinese National Team in a friendly exhibition game at Uytengsu Aquatics Center on Thursday night.

The friendly match was familiar territory for several Trojans who spent the offseason playing for international teams.

Junior goalie Amanda Longan and freshman Paige Hauschild helped the U.S. national team bring home gold at the FINA World Championships this summer, while sophomore Denise Mammolito played for the junior Olympic team at the FINA Junior World Championships. Freshman Nina Ceklic also suited up, playing for the Canada Junior National Team in the junior world championships.

The exhibition was the team’s first action at home so far this season. After the CBU Mini Invitational, the team will take an extended break before playing in the Triton Invitational on Feb. 10-11. The tournament will be held in San Diego.