Water polo steamrolls Arizona State at home

Freshman utility Bayley Weber scored 2 of USC’s 17 goals against Arizona State Saturday. (Daily Trojan/Ling Luo)

The No. 2 USC women’s water polo team achieved a decisive 17-3 victory over No. 10 Arizona State Saturday at Uytengsu Aquatics Center, improving its record to 22-1 overall and 4-1 in conference play.

Saturday’s game snapped a two-game winning streak for the visiting Sun Devils, who now sit at 12-10 overall and 1-3 against MPSF competitors. Arizona State also lost to USC earlier this season at the Barbara Kalbus Invitational by a score of 7-1.

In contrast, the Trojans appear to be gaining momentum since their narrow loss to Stanford two weeks ago. Their dominant performances these past two weekends, including last weekend’s 8-3 win against Cal, are promising for a team looking to bring home another championship.

As Saturday was Senior Day, it was fitting that senior driver Courtney Fahey made some big plays for her team early on. Fahey drew an exclusion to open up the scoring for the Trojans, who surged to a 5-1 lead by the end of the first period. After the Trojans scored 3 more unanswered goals in the second period, the game seemed all but over heading into the final two frames.

The Sun Devils simply had no answer for the Trojan offense. While Arizona State’s defense conceded just 6.90 goals per game entering Saturday’s match, the Trojans quickly surpassed this mark. Nine different Trojans contributed at least 1 goal, while five Trojans had multiple-goal performances. Junior utility Maud Megens led the charge with 4 goals, while junior driver Kelsey McIntosh put up 3.

Along with maintaining offensive command from the start, the Trojans held strong on defense. While Arizona State was averaging 9.71 goals per game coming into Saturday’s game, the Trojans held the Sun Devils to just 3. Senior goalie Amanda Longan played a crucial role in shutting down the Arizona State offense with 10 important saves.

The Trojans’ dominance on Saturday was fueled not only by its starters and veteran players, but by its young talent. Redshirt sophomore goalie Holly Parker entered the game for the final six minutes of play, giving up only a single goal while making three huge saves. Meanwhile, sophomore driver Verica Bakoc and freshman utility Bayley Weber added 2 goals apiece to the Trojan total.

The team’s more experienced players, including Fahey and Longan, have been essential in guiding these younger players through the end of the regular season. After the mid-season departure of head coach Jovan Vavic last month due to his alleged involvement in the admissions scandal, their leadership has been integral to the team’s continued success.

“Each and every one of the girls stepped up into a role that they had to play to help us move forward,” said freshman two-meter Tilly Kearns in a video released by USC Athletics prior to the Stanford game, just two weeks after Vavic’s departure.

For the 22-1 Trojans, moving forward means pursuing a seventh national championship. Each upcoming contest is an opportunity for the team to improve against conference opponents that they may meet again in next month’s NCAA tournament.

The Trojans will travel across town to Spieker Aquatics Center to take on rival UCLA Saturday at 4 p.m. This will be the Trojans’ final regular season game before they vie for the MPSF championship the following week.