Women’s water polo launches season

The Trojans will look for their 20th straight NCAA Championship appearance.

Redshirt senior goalie Carolyne Stern had 199 saves in her fourth season at USC, propelling her to No. 7 all-time among Trojan goalies with 392 career saves. Stern enters her fifth season as the Trojans’ most experienced goalie. (Louis Chen / Daily Trojan)

Coming off back-to-back NCAA  finals appearances, the No. 1 ranked USC Trojans (2-0, 0-0 Mountain Pacific Sports Federation) begin the 2024 season with championship aspirations yet again. But this time around, USC will be guided by first-year Head Coach Casey Moon at the program’s helm. 

Having coached USC men’s and women’s water polo as well as the U.S. National Team, Moon is heading into his 16th year as a Trojan with 10 championships and a plethora of experience under his belt.

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“It’s some massive shoes to fill; the history [and] heritage of USC water polo is incredible,” Moon said in an interview with the Daily Trojan. “I’ve gotten to learn from two of the best coaches in the country prior. To be able to learn from them, implement what I’ve learned, implement what this program stands for and sprinkle a little of what Casey Moon is in my first year [has] been fun.” 

The Trojans have fallen to rival No. 7 Stanford (2-2, 0-0 MPSF) in the last two NCAA championships by margins of three and two, respectively. In fact, since 2016, USC is 3-4 in championship games. The Trojans fell to the same team in all four of those losses: Stanford. 

For returning players, those recent losses to the Cardinal have hung over their heads in nearly all moments leading up to the 2024 campaign. But, for redshirt senior goalie Carolyne Stern, those shortcomings have only fueled the team.

“I think about it probably every day,” Stern said. “Our ultimate goal here is to win a national championship, and when that gets taken away from you, especially from your biggest rival, it’s a tough pill to swallow.”

After graduating seven seniors, the Trojans will comprise a robust assortment of fresh faces and veteran returners. Returning junior utility Honnie Vandeweghe-O’Shea is picking up right where she left off after notching 26 goals last season. Freshman center Rachel Gazzaniga and freshman attackers Meghan McAninch and Ava Stryker will look to impact the team instantly. Finally, senior attacker Julia Janov will bring championship experience to the group.

“We’re just trying to incorporate the morals and values that we had last year and move that energy into this year [to] use that as fuel for our team to improve every day,” Janov said.

The Trojans are already off to a hot start. They dismantled San Diego State University and California State University Fullerton 18-7 and 16-3, respectively, at the Titan Invitational last weekend. 

But before they can play for their home crowd at Uytengsu Aquatics Center, USC will have three more tournaments on the road through the end of March. First, they’ll head south for the Triton Invitational next week, followed by the Barbara Kalbus Invitational  and Convergence Tournament.

“We will see if we have a team willing to execute what we’ve practiced next weekend,” Moon said. “After next weekend, we’ll truly see who we are as a group. Regardless of win, lose, we’re gonna get better.”

The Trojans will kick off the Triton Invitational Friday at 9:20 a.m. against Concordia University Irvine at Coggan Family Aquatic Complex

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