Trojans prepare for MPSF tournament
After a brutal loss to UCLA on Friday, USC is looking to win at home this weekend. With tough competition coming to Los Angeles, Calif. from all over the country, the Trojans are ready for one last chance to prove themselves before NCAAs.
Alongside No. 2 UCLA, top teams from California include No. 1 UC Berkeley and No. 4 Stanford — all of which hold three out of the four top seeds, according to the Collegiate Water Polo Association poll. In addition to these West Coast powerhouses, USC will host Augustana College, Austin College, Washington and Jefferson College, and Penn State Behrend this weekend.
The Trojans are 15-6 overall and 1-2 in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Tournament play, and are also currently undefeated at their home pool this season. This weekend is essentially a make-or-break moment for the Trojans, as it is their final contest before a potential NCAA postseason.
“We feel really confident,” said junior driver Crason Kranz. “We’re actually more excited than we were on Friday to play UCLA again because we have a lot to prove.”
The Bruins’ comeback in the final minute of the fourth quarter last Friday came as a heartbreak to the Trojans, and they are working on cleaning up their defense in practice this week to prepare.
Redshirt junior driver Chris Agliozzo shared Kranz’ sentiment of positive morale, saying that there are only minor adjustments to be made before facing the competition.
“We tune up a couple of things, and we’re right there,” Agliozzo said.
Regarding these adjustments, Kranz emphasized the importance of defense during the final moments of the contest — something that has challenged the Trojans multiple times this season.
“[There are] just some minor adjustments we need to make defensively in the last minute sequence,” Kranz said.
Last weekend, Kranz executed a steal that led to a key goal, launching USC ahead of the Bruins. So far this season, he has scored 16 goals in total and is going into this weekend hungry for more.
“It’s a bit of a revenge game for us, especially at home, and we plan on being undefeated at our home pool so we can make NCAAs,” Kranz said.
USC’s crosstown rival has the Trojans in a three-game shutout and remains ranked one seed higher than USC. For the Trojans, this only gives them more incentive to get the job done this weekend.
“We had obviously not the result we wanted, but we felt like we gave it a good shot and we’re getting ready for this next weekend,” Agliozzo said. “We feel like we’re in a good spot, things didn’t go our way but we went out there and competed.”
Agliozzo has a total of 7 goals this season, including a season-high of 3 goals in one game against San Jose State last month. To be able to bring these final moments of season competition home is what it’s all about, according to Agliozzo.
“It’s awesome to get the chance to play them here at our home pool and in front of a big crowd,” Agliozzo said. “It’s what we all dream about playing here.”
The Trojans will take on Austin College on Friday at 2:45 p.m., followed by two more days of MPSF Tournament play at Uytengsu Aquatics Center.