Water polo set for clash with UCLA

Senior utility Sophia Lucas holds the ball in her right hand.
Senior utility Sophia Lucas has 11 goals on the season, the eighth most on the Trojans’ squad this season. (Gina Nguyen | Daily Trojan)

No. 1 USC will host No. 3 UCLA Saturday at 1 p.m at home. With a win this weekend, the Trojans would clinch the regular-season MPSF title and the number one overall seed in the MPSF conference tournament.

The Trojans come off a win against No. 9 Arizona State, never trailing to the Sun Devils in a 15-11 win. The team sits at 16-2 overall and 5-0 in MPSF conference play on the season. USC will host the MPSF tournament the following weekend and maintaining its No. 1 overall seed would all but lock up an 18th consecutive NCAA tournament appearance.

This will be USC’s second matchup against the Bruins this season, with their last matchup taking place Feb. 13 at the Triton Invitational. The game ended in heartbreak for the Trojans, losing 11-10 on a game-winning goal with 23 seconds remaining. 

Head Coach Marko Pintaric said he believes the team have prepared well for this week’s game and beyond.

“This is where you’re trying to get in your rhythm,” said Pintaric in an interview with the Daily Trojan. “I know [the team] will be ready; they will do their studying and they will translate into the postseason.”

Senior utility Bayley Weber earned her second MPSF Player of the Week this season with her 3-point game against Arizona State. Her 2 goals on the weekend tied her for 18th place on USC’s all-time scoring list with 137. 

“We treat every game like it’s the National Championship finals,” Weber said. “We don’t overlook any opponent. Obviously [UCLA is] a rival, so we’re stressing that a lot in practices.”

Senior 2-meter Mireia Guiral will also look to have an impact on this weekend’s game. Guiral has scored across 13 games this season, nine of such games have been multi-goal efforts. She sits on the verge of joining the 100-goal club before the season ends, just 7 goals off of the milestone.

USC will also host its senior day Saturday, honoring senior utility Sophia Lucas, redshirt junior goalie Erin Tharp and redshirt senior driver Sabrina Garabet before the game.

“It’s their last game here, so we’re gonna play for them and try to make this day memorable,” Guiral said. 

In the history of USC women’s water polo, no team has beaten the Trojans more than the Bruins with 53 wins, but USC did have the last laugh last season, beating UCLA in the NCAA Championship. 

“We’re representing USC, and we want to win because of that reason, our rivalry,”  Weber said. “We want to take over L.A. and I think that’s a lot more motivation for sure.”