USC women’s water polo shows weekend dominance

Looking to improve its No. 3 ranking, the women’s water polo team clinched two dominant victories over the weekend at the Cal Baptist Mini Invitational on Saturday. The pair of victories over Cal Baptist and Pomona-Pitzer highlighted the dual strength of the Trojans, which remained smothering on defense while lighting up the boards on offense to create a well-balanced attack throughout the day.

Sophomore driver Kelsey McIntosh netted 21 goals as a true freshman. Emily Smith | Daily Trojan

USC started the day against the hosts, Cal Baptist, churning out a shutout victory to end with a 20-0 score. Junior goalkeeper Amanda Longan shone throughout her second clean sheet of the season, recording 12 saves to lock down the defense.

The victory highlighted the strength of the Trojans’ underclassmen, who contributed 70 percent of the goals scored against Cal Baptist and a majority of the scores netted on the day. It was another marquee day for freshman defenseman Paige Hauschild, who notched 4 goals in the Cal Baptist game. Sophomore drivers Elise Stein and Kelsey McIntosh also contributed 4 goals apiece in separate games, with Stein starring in the opening game of the day and McIntosh delivering against Pomona-Pitzer.

Sophomore driver Denise Mammolito also served up a hat trick in the Cal Baptist victory, while freshmen utility player Nadia Pavlovich and defenseman Verica Bakoc scored 2 apiece and freshman 2-meter woman Nina Ceklic found the net for the first time this season.

The strength of the underclassman roster answered questions for the USC offense coming into the season after losing a sizeable senior class at the end of last year. Led by Hauschild, who has already been a star for the U.S. national team on the international circuit, the team is finding a balance of leaders between experienced upperclassmen and young guns.

The game against Pomona-Pitzer snapped the team’s season-opening shutout streak, which lasted just under 81 minutes to start the 2018 season. However, the Trojans were still able to limit their opponent to only 3 goals in four quarters of action with senior goalie Victoria Chamorro playing the first three frames in goal. The team took a 14-0 lead by the half, but allowed its first goal of the season on a six-on-five advantage in the first minute of the second half.

Despite allowing 3 goals, an aggressive attack allowed the Trojans to remain squarely in control of the game, with Mammolito notching another hat trick to tally a total of 21 goals. Senior goalie Nicola Gonzales took over for the final frame of action, recording two saves to close out the victory.

The Trojans are now 3-0 on the season, but their play so far has been limited to this weekend’s pair of unranked opponents and an opening game against No. 23 LMU. As the team takes a weeklong break from action, they will prepare for the Triton Invitational in February, which will usher in a month of ranked opponents ahead of the MPSF tournament.