No. 2 Trojans prepare for top-ranked opponents

Sophomore driver Carson Kranz holds the ball in the air as a opposing player defends him.
Sophomore driver Carson Kranz has scored 19 goals for the Trojans this season. He scored 2 goals against UCLA Nov. 6. (Vincent Leo | Daily Trojan)

No. 2 USC finished its regular season as the second best team in the MPSF conference and earned a first and second round bye in the MPSF tournament this weekend. The Trojans finished the regular season on a 5-game win streak.

The last time the Trojans saw competitive action occured nearly two weeks ago in a staple win against now No. 3 UCLA. USC won the game by 1 goal on senior night and was able to get a big confidence boost to end the regular season. The Bruins can reach the semifinal on Saturday against USC by defeating the winner of Austin College versus Penn State Behrend. 

“For us, to have that kind of mental advantage over them having already beaten them once this season is huge, but we’re not going to let that get to our heads too much,” senior goalie Nic Porter said. “They’re a wounded animal at the moment because they’ve lost two in a row and they’re going to be extremely dangerous, so we’ve got to be at our best to beat them.”

Sophomore driver Carson Kranz was a key contributor against the Bruins, scoring 2 goals and getting 1 steal in the victory. Kranz is confident in his team ahead of the expected matchup against UCLA. 

“UCLA is always gonna come back and be ready to play, and we prepared very well for the last game and we’re doing the same for this game, and it’s going to come down to our six on five,” Kranz said. “It’ll be a very tough game, but I think if we stick to our plan we should come out on top.”

Should USC win its semifinal game Saturday, the team will face either No. 1 UC Berkeley or No. 4 Stanford in the final Sunday. The Trojans have beaten Stanford, UCLA and Berkeley at least once each this season, and they have a high level of familiarity with those matchups. 

Head Coach Marko Pintaric has been in charge for three seasons, and he knows the difference between regular season and tournament preparation. 

“This is a different type of tournament,” Pintaric said. “You’re playing one game at a time. It’s different than getting yourself ready for just regular league games. It comes to the energy levels and trying to play out the whole weekend in order to stay consistent.”

USC is still vying for a spot in the NCAA tournament. The Trojans can qualify with an automatic bid by winning the MPSF tournament or by receiving an at-large bid.

“We want to go in there and win all of it and show all the teams that we’re the best,” Kranz said. “This weekend is very important to us, we want to go in there and stick it to everyone.”

USC will open the tournament Saturday at 11:15 a.m. at Avery Aquatic Center in Palo Alto, Calif. against the winner of UCLA and Penn State Behrend or Austin College. If the Trojans advance, they will play in the final Sunday at 2:45 p.m.