Women’s water polo has busy weekend

Junior driver Téa Poljak holds the ball over her head during USC’s match against Occidental.
Junior driver Téa Poljak holds the ball over her head during USC’s match against Occidental. (Nayeon Ryu | Daily Trojan)

Coming off of two dominant wins last weekend, No. 1 USC faces off against two ranked opponents this weekend — No. 8 Fresno State and No. 11 San Jose State. 

The Trojans have never lost to either team, being 1-0 against the Bulldogs and 42-0 against the Spartans. USC will also face off against UCLA in a scrimmage match shortly after the San Jose State game.

The Trojans will look to maintain their perfect record and continue their title defense. Head Coach Marko Pintaric said he believes it will be a tough road but that the key to the team’s success this year will be consistency.

“Our biggest challenge is, again, being consistent because we did graduate a lot of upperclassmen last season,” said Pintaric in an interview with the Daily Trojan. “There’s no lack of talent on paper, but again we need to train together more and more and play together as a team. I think we will perform more consistently … I can see that it’s upward progress.”

The Trojans had 16 different players finding the back of the net in the two first games of the season. 

Joining the goal effort in her first game in nearly two years was redshirt sophomore 2-meter Tilly Kearns, who comes back to USC after training with the Australian National Team. 

Kearns has some familiarity with the players on the team, having practiced with them and played with some of them back in 2019 but is still trying to mesh together with the team.

“It’s definitely a work in progress with me not being here for two years,” Kearns said. “It’s almost an entirely different team, but having the girls that I did play with in 2019 helped me slide right back into the team.”

Kearns already has 10 goals on the season. In her 2019 freshman season, Kearns scored 5 goals against Fresno State and will look to repeat such an effort this weekend.

Although the game this weekend against the Bruins will be a scrimmage, it can prepare the Trojans for their later season matchups. It will be a unique experience to play crosstown rivals and the No. 3 ranked team so early in the season. 

Senior utility Claire Haas said she believes the scrimmage will help the team improve as they begin the young season.

“It will definitely show us what we need to work on early, so that we can continue to work on it when we play them next in April,” Haas said. “I think it’ll be a really good show of where we’re at as a team.”

Learning from mistakes early can help USC in its quest to repeat as national champions. The Trojans won their seventh national championship last season. They would be the first team since Stanford from 2014-2015 to repeat as the national champions.

“At the end of the day, we’re just playing for each other,” Haas said. “Winning a natty would mean a lot to our seniors graduating this year and the girls who just got back from the Olympics.”

USC hosts Fresno State Friday at 5 p.m. and will head to Westwood for the UCLA Mini Invite against San Jose State Saturday at 10:20 a.m. The Trojans will conclude the weekend with a scrimmage against UCLA on Saturday at 2:20 p.m.