USC head to San Diego for Triton Invitational

No. 2  USC will journey south this weekend to participate in the Triton Invitational where they could face many top-ranked opponents. No. 3 UCLA, No. 5 University of Hawai’i, No. 6 UC Irvine, No. 8 Long Beach State and No. 9 Fresno State are all going to be competing, and the Trojans could run into at least two of these teams on the way to the final.

USC has had success at this tournament in the past but lost last year in heartbreaking fashion in the final to UCLA on a game-winning goal with 23 seconds left. High standards are always expected of the seven-time national championship winners, so they’ll look to get back to that final this season. Head Coach Marko Pintaric said he knows the team will be ready for the ramp-up in tougher competition this weekend.

“Our standards are super high, before every season, we’re set to win the national championship,” said Pintaric in an interview with the Daily Trojan. “This [tournament] is going to be a great test for the team where we will see top 10 ranked opponents and have back-to-back games on Saturday and they will be tested. This is our first real test and we’re looking forward to it, [the] expectation is to win the tournament.”

The season is still very young, but USC has seemed to sprint out of the gates so far. They won their first four games with relative ease, with not a single game finishing within single digits. This builds off their strong season only a year ago where they lost just one game to teams not named Stanford. If all goes according to plan for the Trojans, they could be playing four games in four days for the second week in a row. Redshirt sophomore 2-meter Hannah Meyer, who sat out last season with an injury, and the rest of the team are ready to take the tougher opponents head-on.

 “We’ve been hungry for some competition, we’ve trained since the day after Christmas during hell-month,” said Meyer in an interview with the Daily Trojan. “[We’re] really just trying to bond together, try to strengthen up and to play in the finals is kind of our end goal.”

The Trojans will start the weekend with a game against Concordia University, and if they win they’ll play the winner of No. 12 UC Santa Barbara and Indiana. Should the Trojans win their first few games, it could potentially set them up for a rematch against the Beach in the semifinals. USC took down Long Beach State 17-7 last Saturday in a game in which every Trojan seemed to be on the mark. In the game, nine different players for USC got on the score sheet. 

To start the season, Pintaric named redshirt senior driver Paige Hauschild and redshirt junior 2-meter Tilly Kearns captains. Both were named First-Team All-Americans last season and starred on their respective national teams in the Olympics. You could probably fill up a whole two pages listing just their accolades alone, but Pintaric said he chose them as captains because of the leaders they are outside the pool.

“They really stepped into being the coach’s voice in the locker room and really protectors of the team culture,” Pintaric said. “They provide help to younger players, to upperclassmen as well and they’re a great link between the coaching staff and the team.”

So far this season 20 different Trojans have scored a goal, a testament to their roster depth and the sheer amount of talent they have. USC was dominant last season and will only build on that considering 13 of their 16 players that were on the NCAA tournament roster returned. But the Trojans also have numerous talented new players coming in that will look to contribute to building on USC’s success. Talking to the players and coaches, you can tell that USC is as prepared and confident as ever.

“Every single day we treat practice like it’s the day before an NCAA championship, and it’s ‘we before me’ always,” Meyer said. “So having those things in the back of your mind and knowing that it is your second family and we’re all here for the same thing, and we remind ourselves of that every single day.”

The Trojans will head to UC San Diego this weekend and will take on Concordia in their first game of the Triton Invitational Friday at 1:20 p.m.