Women’s water polo and Stanford meet again

USC heads up the coast to face the Cardinal in their second meeting this season.

The USC defense has been stout all season, playing to an 111-goal differential so far. Stanford was the last team to score more than 10 goals on USC. (Louis Chen / Daily Trojan)

Gathering momentum with a two-game win streak, No. 3 USC is set to meet No. 4 Stanford on the road Saturday.

“This is a moral win for us, we have some wind under our sails,” said Head Coach Casey Moon in an interview with the Daily Trojan. “Smiles are back amongst the team, and we’re excited. With these two wins, I think our girls are really motivated to play.”

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USC’s (15-4, 2-0 Mountain Pacific Sports Federation) recent 13-8 victory over No. 14 Indiana University Bloomington (18-6, 0-3) was headed by sophomore attacker Morgan Netherton, who put away 3 goals and earned an assist. During Netherton’s freshman season last year, she scored 2 goals against Stanford (14-4, 2-1) in a 17-12 victory. 

This upcoming matchup will be USC and Stanford’s second meeting of the season. The Trojans previously encountered the Cardinal during the Barbara Kalbus Invitational, and during this matchup, then-ranked No. 5 USC fell 7-12 to then-ranked No. 4 Stanford. Although USC had 25 shots compared to Stanford’s 24, the Trojans struggled to find the back of the net, contributing to their defeat.

“From the first time we played [Stanford], and to now, we’re a more mature team, our playability and experience has grown,” Moon said. “We have a big challenge ahead of us, but I’m really excited for the challenge.”

The Trojans’ developing offensive front could prove beneficial in their upcoming match, averaging 13.2 goals per game. Overall, the score chart is led by freshman attacker Ava Stryker’s 38 goals. USC’s four players with over 30 goals along with redshirt senior attacker Alejandra Aznar’s 31 assists make it clear that offense and teamwork are some of the team’s strengths.

That’s not to say the team is unbalanced, as freshman center Rachel Gazzaniga has 19 steals, averaging at least one steal per game. The Trojans have also been able to keep their opponents under 10 goals in the last 10 games allowing an average of 7.3 goals per game.

On the other hand, the Cardinal is coming off an 8-15 loss against No. 1 UCLA (19-0, 4-0). Stanford gave up 5 goals in the second quarter and was kept scoreless in the third. UCLA makes up two of Stanford’s four losses this season. 

Despite the most recent result, the Cardinal continues to be a championship-level team. This season, they have taken down No. 5 UC Berkeley (13-4, 2-1) twice in two separate invitationals. Stanford’s top scorer, redshirt senior defender Sophie Wallace, has managed 13 multi-goal games, and Wallace is one of two players on the Cardinal with double-digit, multi-goal performances. Year by year, Stanford continues to prove dominant, having won back-to-back NCAA Tournaments in the past two years, both of which were won against USC.

“This season we approached every game like it’s an NCAA championship, especially playing Stanford, all the feelings come out,” said redshirt senior goalkeeper Carolyne Stern.“They’ve won back-to-back the past two years.”

USC and Stanford have an extensive history of producing championship-caliber matches. The Trojans and Cardinal have battled in every MPSF championship match since 2018, not including the 2020 season. Out of these five matches, USC has the better record of 3-2, currently on a two-game losing streak. If both teams continue their powerful performances for the remainder of the season, this meeting could very well be a preview of what’s to come.

“We have so much fire under us and so much desire to beat these guys, especially because of what we felt after the last two years,” said redshirt junior center Hannah Meyer. “We want to win it for us but we also want to win it for the girls who didn’t have it, didn’t have that chance. We’ve been playing against a lot of these girls since we were 10, 11 and 12 years old, so we’re going to pick up right where we leave off every single time.”

USC hopes to continue building a win streak against Stanford at Avery Aquatic Center on Saturday at noon.

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