Women’s water polo heads to Westwood for two battles

The No. 1 USC women’s water polo team will head to Westwood Saturday for a mini-tournament tilt against No. 16 Loyola Marymount and a scrimmage against host No. 3 UCLA. 

The games were added to the Trojans’ schedule to increase the amount of opportunities the team has to prepare for a trip to the NCAA Tournament. 

On Saturday morning, the Trojans will face a Lions team that outscored opponents Pomona-Pitzer and Chapman 30-12 at the Lancer Joust last weekend, bringing their overall record to 3-1 on the season. Their two-game winning streak is led in part by drivers senior Melyssa Moore and junior Alena Sanchez, who tallied a total of 12 goals in Riverside.

With the season just in its infancy, head coach Marko Pintaric noted that trusting the game plan is the default for any team they face to block scoring drives. 

“We are always in a tradition of trusting our traditional game to initiate everything,” Pintaric said. “We rely on scouting reports as well. We had a chance to see Loyola play in the last tournament and again before ours, so [we] know their strengths and weaknesses and we’re going to stick with our game plan.”

On the defensive side, apart from a 21-5 loss to Hawaii and an 8-6 loss against Fresno State, the Lions have kept their opponents to 9 goals and under with a young goalie group of sophomore Elizabeth Bradley and freshmen Madison Davis and Tara Debrabander all clocking in time over four games. 

Regardless of the multiple play styles the three goalies may bring, USC senior driver Denise Mammolito noted the Trojans’ approach to facing multiple goalies is to prepare and adapt as needed.

“I think for any goalie you want to read and just execute,” Mammolito said. “I’m sure the coaches will scout them and we’ll know their weaknesses. So we’ll be ready to go regardless of who’s in the cage with them.”

Last season, the Trojans faced the Lions in the 2019 Triton Invitational in February and emerged with a win that handed them their sixth straight tournament title. The 16-5 win showcased the depth of the Trojans’ roster with 10 different players adding to the score sheet, a pattern expected to reemerge in this year’s match.  

A scrimmage with UCLA will round out the Trojans’ appearance at the tournament against a Bruins team that has already played nine games on the season. The match will be a key opportunity to scope out some of the Bruins’ top scorers including freshman utility Abbi Hill, whose early 24 goals on the season is at least twice that of every other player on the roster. The two teams will possibly square off at the Triton Invitational next weekend and later in the season in April. 

“The scrimmages are great — invaluable — because we can play everybody, pretty much,” Pintaric said. “It’s just to see how we match up with them and how they match up, obviously, with us. This is going to be a great training for both teams.”

The Trojans will face the Lions at 12:45 p.m. and scrimmage against UCLA at 5:15 p.m. Saturday in Westwood.