Women’s water polo dominates at Riverside tournament

Senior driver Denise Mammolito was named to the NCAA All-Tournament Second team last season. She scored 2 goals against California Baptist Saturday and scored 3 more against Concordia University Sunday. (Ling Luo | Daily Trojan)

The No. 1 USC women’s water polo team made a statement this weekend with a 17-2 win over California Baptist and a 25-2 win against Concordia at the Lancer Joust in Riverside. 

The victories set the tone for a Trojan team steadfast in defending its No. 1 ranking despite the loss of several players to Olympic training.

In Saturday morning’s match, the CBU Lancers opened the scoring with junior attacker Kira O’Donell finding the net on a power-play. 

It would be one of the last goals they saw for quite some time. All-American senior drivers Denise Mammolito and Kelsey McIntosh answered back for USC. The scoring only continued from there, with four other Trojans scoring later in the game.

After scoring 5 unanswered goals in the second period, the Trojans were up 8-1 heading into the second half. With just one more goal from CBU senior driver Katie Quon in the third, the Lancers struggled to a scoreless fourth allowing USC’s scoring tally to rise to 17. 

Starter redshirt junior goalie Holly Parker closed out the game with a .800 save percentage and just 2 goals allowed.

Even with the double-digit scoring, sophomore utility Bayley Weber, who scored 4 goals in the opener, noted that the 0.486 shooting percentage was in part due to nerves. 

“I think the first game was, you know, it’s the first game of our season,” Weber said. “We’re all excited to play and I think we came out with a lot of energy but we just couldn’t find the right passes — we were hitting the bars or throwing the ball at the goalie.”

While the Trojans maintained the same sort of defensive effort as in the previous game and improved their shooting, they saw a drop in goals from powerplays against Concordia. 

Redshirt freshman goalie Erin Tharp saw some playing time, allowing just 2 goals in the first half, and freshman Carolyne Stern also clocked in her first time as a Trojan with eight saves in the second, including a 5-meter penalty block. 

“I really like Carolyne’s attitude,”  head coach Marko Pintaric said after her performance. “She’s a very bright kid doing everything great in the training. She’s a student of the game, stays extra and asks the right questions, so I’m not surprised for her to be successful.”

The USC scoring drive was unstoppable with 6 or more goals per period and an overall shooting percentage of .758. The Trojans’ depth was a key factor with 11 players scoring. Freshman driver Téa Poljak, freshman driver Christina Crum and freshman utility Brooklyn Aguilera each picked up their first career goals as Trojans. 

“We missed high percentage opportunities [in the first game] and I think the coaches did a really good job in reinforcing that in our meeting after the game,” Weber said. “So when we came in the second game, we were more aware that not making those high percentage opportunities can lose us a championship.”

Despite the number of goals that USC was able to rack up in both games, there was still room for improvement in powerplays, with the Trojans scoring on 6 of 13 against CBU and 2 of 8 against Concordia. 

“If it wasn’t there the first time, it was going to be there the second time,” said Weber, who had 4 goals from power-plays across the two games. “So I think we held off taking those [shots] until it was clearly shown that we were going to make them.”

The Trojans will look to continue their winning streak at the UCLA Mini Tournament this weekend. USC will face LMU at 12:45 p.m. Saturday before a scrimmage against UCLA at 5:15 p.m.