Water polo faces five opponents this weekend

Sophomore driver Jacob Mercep is playing in his first season at USC after transferring from San Jose State. (Emily Smith | Daily Trojan)

No. 1 USC will compete in Riverside, Calif. at the Lancer Invitational on Friday and Saturday before returning home to face UC Santa Barbara on Sunday at 1 p.m. The team looks to keep its undefeated streak through five matches this weekend and improve its 12-0 record.

On Friday, the Trojans will kick off the Lancer Joust at noon against California Baptist followed immediately by a match against La Verne at 1:30 p.m., who USC already beat earlier in the season, 20-5. USC has not played the Lancers this season but hold an overall 13-0 record against Cal Baptist after a 16-6 win in 2017. The Lancers currently hold a 7-7 overall after falling to UC Davis 12-10 and beating Redlands 14-10 last week.

Although the Trojans have had an outstanding season so far, sophomore driver Sawyer Rhodes said they make every game count regardless of past outcomes.

“[We] just keep pushing, don’t get soft or think you’re better than anyone else,” Rhodes said. “[We] just take every game one at a time, [and] don’t really focus on the fact that you already beat them or the fact that you’re tired. Just play every game to win it and do your best.”

On Saturday, the Trojans will face Concordia and Redlands. USC has played against both teams, beating Concordia twice (23-5 and 32-7) and Redlands 23-2. The home opener this season was against Concordia, improving USC’s all-time overall against the Eagles to 9-0.   

Concordia enters the week at 3-8 overall after a 14-4 loss to UC Davis last week. Redlands is currently at 3-9 overall after a 6-4 loss to Claremont-Mudd-Scripps and a 14-10 loss to Cal Baptist last week. USC improved 10-0 all-time against Redlands after a victorious match at the Inland Empire Classic earlier this season.   

On Sunday, the Trojans return to home waters to compete against No. 5 Santa Barbara at 1 p.m. The Gauchos fell to the Trojans earlier this season, 10-3. UCSB enters the week 12-4 overall after beating Pepperdine 16-4 and losing in a close match against Stanford 9-7. Gauchos senior driver Boris Jovanovic leads in scoring with 50 goals in his collegiate career so far. USC holds an all-time record of 73-12-2 against UCSB with wins in the past 55 matches, including a 10-3 win earlier this season at the Aggie RoundUp.  

With five games coming up this weekend, the Trojans are working hard in preparation. All of these matches will culminate in their big match against rival Stanford the following weekend up north.   

“I think it is a big test to see how well we can play, especially on Sunday coming back and playing Santa Barbara here,” Rhodes said. “They’re a pretty tough team so being able to get through the week and finish on a good note will … raise our spirits… [If we win] we’ll have probably a mellower week while we prepare for Stanford.”