No. 1 USC set for another tough two-game series against No. 5 Arizona State
The No. 1 women’s water polo team is gearing up for Senior Day and two matchups against No. 5 Arizona State this weekend. The games will be the Trojans’ last home tilts before heading to Westwood to face UCLA next weekend.
Earlier in the season, the Trojans met the Sun Devils in the 2021 ASU Invitational — winning their first game 16-8 and edging out a narrow 6-5 win the following day.
Missing from those early games was ASU sophomore defender Lara Kiss, a critical player in the Sun Devils’ upset win over No. 2 UCLA last weekend. Kiss found an early goal for the Sun Devils in the first quarter and recorded three steals overall.
ASU freshman attacker Luca Petovary, just awarded MPSF/KAP 7 Newcomer of the Week honors, will also be on the Trojans’ radar — her five goals in two games against UCLA won her a spot on the ASU all-time records for freshman scorers. That’s without mentioning Petovary is also leading the team with 38 goals on the season.
But another 38-goal tallied player will be present for the two-game series — USC redshirt senior driver Denise Mammolito. The newly minted MPSF Player of the Week backed up her previous strong contributions to the team with seven goals in wins over No. 2 Stanford this past weekend.
“It’s just [Mammolito] playing on both ends, and you know, going to push, ‘I’m going to be brave, you know, to step into the right place at the right time,’” head coach Marko Pintaric said of Mammolito’s performance against the Cardinal. “Then again, you have to give credit to her teammates as well, to find her … and it was just a great, great, great team effort, but her, just constantly working hard and being in the right place at the right time, she did carry the team this weekend, definitely.”
When celebrating Senior Day, Mammolito will be joined by other upperclassmen threats in senior driver Verica Bakoc, redshirt senior and soon-to-be Olympian Maud Megens and junior driver Grace Tehaney. With their work, combined with 10 other Trojans who have scored this season, USC has recorded 13.1 goals per game.
The offensive effort will be tested by ASU’s defenders, including senior goalie/utility Chelsea Karimazondo, whose combined experience in the cage and in the field has earned her an average of 8.4 saves per game and an average 7.2 goals allowed for competitors.
On the other end of the pool, redshirt senior goalie Holly Parker has set the energy for the Trojans in every single match they’ve had. Parker just outdoes Karimazondo in averaging 8.5 saves per game and matches the 7.2 goals allowed average, but recently posted two games with 12 saves each, career highs for the All-American. With a defense that has helped keep opponents without a score in seven total periods this season, the Trojans can work within their hard press to keep the Sun Devils at bay.
Both teams will be battling fatigue after returning for yet another two-game weekend series against top-three opponents.
“Arizona is a great team this year, you know, they have played pretty much in every position and they play a little bit different than Stanford, you know, in terms of ratio zone to press,” Pintaric said. “It’s a different game, and you know, we already played them twice so we’re kind of fortunate to already have a good look at them.”
USC has a slight advantage having not traveled for several weeks, and the positive energy that’ll come from celebrating eight players for Senior Day should surely give the Trojans an added edge. In a recent announcement, Los Angeles County approved the allowance of limited family and guests of student-athletes and coaches to attend the remaining outdoor spring home games.
The Trojans will face ASU on Saturday at noon and Sunday at 11 a.m., honoring the team’s seniors before Sunday’s matchup.