No. 1 USC looks to continue its perfect season against No. 15 Indiana

The Trojans lined up during a stoppage in play in a water polo game.
Redshirt senior driver Denise Mammolito has scored in nine of USC’s ten games this season, tied for a team-high with senior driver Verica Bakoc. (Alexis Francel | Daily Trojan)

This weekend No. 1 USC will travel to Bloomington, Ind. to face off against No. 15 Indiana for a two-game set.

Coming off another dominating weekend performance, this time versus San José State, the Trojans are looking to extend their undefeated season against an Indiana team hungry to snap its own six-game losing streak.

While the Hoosiers 8-8 record is not intimidating, their strength of schedule and play at home indicates that this matchup might not be a walk-in-the-park for the Trojans. Between their 6-2 home record and all of their losses this season coming against top eight teams, Indiana is not a team to glance over. The Hoosiers will look to upset USC and record their first win in program history against the Trojans after dropping the 12 previous matchups between the schools.

As they prepare to fly across the country, USC head coach Marko Pintaric touched on what he wants to see from his team as they go up against the Hoosiers.

“I’m looking to see everybody’s input and improvements from last weekend,” Pintaric said. “We also want to put some of our players in different positions just to see how they can adjust to a different team because Indiana is not the same as San José State.”

During such an unpredictable season with many new faces on the roster, the Trojans’ upperclassmen experience has been as big of a factor as any in their remarkable success so far.

“I think our leadership is a big reason why we have been so successful,” Pintaric said. “We have a great group of seniors with our team captains Denise [Mammolito] and Kelsey [McIntosh], Maud [Megens] returning, and basically half our team being upperclassmen. And although they might be playing less minutes, they are still leading in the water.” 

One of those upperclassmen, junior driver Grace Tehaney, has been crucial for USC on the offensive end of the pool. The 2020 Third Team All-American has 20 goals through 10 games this season, with seven of them coming just last weekend. Tehaney noted the team’s impressive 10-0 start can in large part be attributed to how focused the team is on staying in the present.

“Coming off a season that got cut short, we go into each game that we play knowing it can all be taken away from us,” Tehaney said. “So no matter who we are playing or what game it is, we recognize that all that matters is what is going on in the pool at that moment.”

One of the main reasons for the strong season the Trojans have put together is their roster depth; on any given night, there are several players who can step up and make a significant impact on the outcome of the game. The ability to rotate the lineup is why USC has had six different lead goal-scorers in each of their first 10 games thus far. 

Although being “undefeated” has a nice ring to it, coach Pintaric emphasized that the Trojans are focusing on “improving and bettering ourselves as a team so we can reach our ultimate goal of winning a national championship.” The next step in the chase for a title will begin on Friday in Indiana as USC hopes to continue rolling through its competition and show why they are considered the best team in the country.

The Trojans will face the Hoosiers at 9 a.m. and 10 a.m. Friday and Saturday morning, respectively.