USC earns second place at Invitational

The Trojans continued to struggle against Stanford, dropping their first loss of the season in a narrow defeat Sunday. (Louis Chen | Daily Trojan)

USC women’s water polo had another successful tournament over the weekend, defeating Loyola Marymount, Arizona State and UCLA before losing to Stanford in the final round.

Redshirt junior 2-meter Tilly Kearns led the offensive effort by scoring 12 goals in the tournament. Redshirt senior utility Bayley Weber added 9 more to the tally. Overall, the Trojans outscored their opponents 57-32. 

On the defensive side, senior goalie Carolyne Stern recorded 33 saves over the weekend. 

All four teams that USC played were ranked. The Trojans started off the tournament by defeating No. 23 Loyola Marymount in an 18-7 comeback victory Friday. After trailing the Lions 6-5 at halftime, the Trojans scored 8 in the third quarter while limiting LMU to just 1 goal in the second half. Senior driver Téa Poljak led all players with 3 goals.

The Trojans advanced to knock out No. 7 Arizona State 16-4, scoring 12 goals in the first half before easing off the throttle. The Trojans’ shutout of the Sun Devils in the third quarter marked the tenth regulation period this season in which USC blanked an opponent.

Both Weber and Kearns recorded 3 goals each. In total, nine Trojans scored in the game.

In the semifinal round, USC won against its crosstown rival UCLA for the second time this season 13-10. Kearns struck again for a season-high 4 goals, including 3 in the fourth quarter that helped the Trojans break away from the Bruins. 

Redshirt junior driver Alejandra Aznar tacked on a season-high 3 more. Saturday’s victory marked the third time in a row the Trojans have defeated the Bruins, going back to last season.

In Sunday’s championship game, USC faced off against No. 1 Stanford. Although the Trojans had many triumphs last year, one opponent that consistently gave them problems was Stanford. 

Last season, the Cardinal defeated the Trojans in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Final at the Uytengsu Aquatics Center. The final nail in the coffin came when Stanford knocked off USC to win the 2022 NCAA National Championship.

On Sunday, the Cardinal continued its success against the Trojans, narrowly handing the Trojans their first loss of the season, winning 11-10. 

“It was a great match,” said Head Coach Marko Pintaric in an interview with the Daily Trojan. “It was a great fight. It was awesome.”

Stern blocked 12 shots in the cage, the fourth time this season she recorded 10 or more saves in a game.

On the offense, Kearns and Weber netted 3 goals each for the second time in the tournament. After the tournament, Weber is now 12th all-time in USC career goals with 173. However, the 11 offensive fouls called against USC disrupted the Trojans’ momentum. 

“When you are on offense and you commit this many offensive fouls, this is what feeds [Stanford’s] fast breaks,” Pintaric said. 

Cardinal freshman driver Jenna Flynn led all players with 5 goals. The San Jose native scored the first 2 goals of the match and provided the game-tying strike late in the fourth quarter.

Cardinal redshirt junior driver Ryann Neushul tacked on 4 more goals. Flynn and Neushul provided just over 80% of Stanford’s goals. 

With ten seconds left, Cardinal senior 2-meter Sophia Wallace provided the go-ahead blast. Anzar had a chance to extend the game into overtime, but her shot bounced off the post and rolled into the goal after the buzzer sounded.

USC will travel to Pomona next to face four more teams in the Convergence Tournament. The first game will be against Iona (5-2) Friday at Haldeman Pool.