No. 2 USC Women’s Water Polo Set For Saturday Home Opener vs. UC Irvine

Courtesy: USC Athletics

#2 USC (8-0) vs. #6 UC Irvine (7-5)
Saturday, February 18 | 1 p.m. 
Uytengsu Aquatics Center
Series Record: USC leads 34-3 (W34)
Last Meeting: USC 15, UCI 8 (Feb. 4, 2023)

No. 2 USC sets up for its home opener this weekend, hosting No. 6 UC Irvine for a nonconference battle at 1 p.m. on Saturday (Feb. 18) at Uytengsu Aquatics Center.

USC picked up the No. 2 ranking in the nation to open 2023, mirroring the Trojans’ 2022 finish. As of the latest round of national rankings (released Feb. 15), USC still sits at No. 2 in the land.

USC laid claim to a tournament title in the Trojans’ last competition with a winning run through the Triton Invitational in La Jolla.

FINAL: #2 USC 10, #3 UCLA 8 (OT)
A 5-meter penalty shot had UCLA up 8-6 early in the fourth period, but that would be the last time the Bruins would break through. Mireia Guiral tugged the Trojans within one with a score from the post to make it 8-7, and then — after some stingy USC defense — Grace Tehaney locked it even for the first time since the second period with a crosscage blast that knotted it at 8-8 with 2:35 left in the fourth. UCLA’s look at a regulation winner was off the mark, bringing up overtime for the crosstown rivals. Neither team was able to get to the back of the net in the first three-minute OT frame as the USC defense continued to squelch the Bruins. After another minute of scoreless play to open the second overtime stretch, USC earned its first lead since the first period when Paige Hauschild found the far corner to go up 9-8. In the last minute, Tilly Kearns earned a 6-on-5 for the Trojans and would finish off the possession to make it 10-8 USC with 48 ticks to go. The Trojan defense remained resolute, leaving the Bruins scoreless for the final 9:30 of the game to emerge as the Triton Invitational champions with the 10-8 overtime victory.

SEMIFINAL: USC 15, #9 UC Irvine 8
USC course-corrected early to take a 4-2 lead over the Anteaters with opening goals from four different players. Back-to-back goals from Paige Hauschild in the second helped lift USC to an 8-5 halftime advantage over the Anteaters, and then Honnie Vandeweghe-O’Shea and Alejandra Aznar joined the scoresheet in the third as USC moved ahead 11-7 to close the third. Offense kept clicking for USC down the stretch, while the defense tightened up, and the Trojans emerged with a 15-8 win over UC Irvine to steal a spot in the final.

USC 16, #13 Indiana 7
Up against Indiana to wrap up bracket play, USC came out a little slow and had to fight back to tie it up three times in the first period before Tehaney got the Trojans a late 4-3 lead to close the first. It was a 6-5 margin at halftime, and then USC made its power move in the third, knocking in six goals — three from Tehaney, two from Weber and once from Mireia Guiral — to help stoke the Trojans to a 12-7 lead entering the fourth. There, behind some stubborn goalkeeping from senior Carolyne Stern, USC shut out the Hoosiers in the last eight minutes en route to claiming a 16-7 victory that ensured a semifinal slot for USC.

USC 23, Concordia 3
USC churned out the first 11 goals of the game en route to a dominant 23-3 win over Concordia to open bracket play at the Triton Invitational. Freshman Maggie Johnson knocked out four goals to lead the Trojan scoring charge. USC goalies Carolyne Stern and Laine Hourigan tag-teamed the cage in this one, with senior Stern tallying five saves and giving up just one late goal in the first half of action as USC built out an 11-1 advantage over the Eagles. Bayley WeberTilly Kearns and Alejandra Aznar each scored twice in the first half to set USC on its course to victory. With her first goal of the day, Kearns tallied her 100th career goal as a Trojan. Hourigan checked into the cage for the second half, backing up a stingy Trojan defense with six saves while the Eagles found the back of the net only twice. Maggie Johnson clicked off three more goals in the second half to set her career high at four on the day, while Honnie Vandeweghe-O’Shea also had a career day in serving up three goals all in the fourth period as USC pressed on to close out a 23-3 final victory.

Eight games deep into 2023, USC’s balanced scoring charge is led by Bayley Weber and Alejandra Aznar with 16 and 12 goals, respectively. Three Trojans are next in line with 11 apiece — Paige HauschildMaggie Johnson and Grace Tehaney. In all, 2 Trojans have scored at least one goal to date, including six with their first goals as Trojans. Defensively, all four USC goalies have factored into the 8-0 start, led by senior Carolyne Stern. Stern is averaging 11.3 saves per game thanks in part to a career-high 16 saves made against Long Beach State on Jan. 28. USC’s other three goalies — Laine HouriganSofia Stein and Jada Ward — are in their first season of action as Trojans. Overall, the group averages 9.7 saves per game to anchor a Trojan defense giving up just 6.1 goals per game. USC has outscored opponents 123-43 so far, while holding teams scoreless in six different periods to date.

ON THE RISE            
With her work at the Triton Invite, senior Paige Hauschild has climbed to rank No. 10 all-time in scoring at USC with 175 career goals to date. Several more veteran Trojans are also on the climb. Bayley Weber ranks No. 14 with 159 career goals, and Grace Tehaney sits at No. 21 with 134 to her name. Meanwhile, Mireia Guiral is on the rise with 104 career goals, and Tilly Kearns just joined the 100-goal club at USC to now hold 103 goals as a Trojan. On the defensive end, senior goalie Carolyne Stern ranks No. 9 all-time among USC goalies with her 244 career saves, and counting.

USC’s 2023 captains are a decorated pair. Both 2020 Olympians, Paige Haushild and Tilly Kearns are the experienced backbone of the Trojan roster once again. Kearns finished the 2022 season at the top of the scoring leaderboard with 64 goals – 10th most scored in a single season in program history – and as a Peter J. Cutino Award finalist. The Aussie Olympian earned spots on the 2022 NCAA All-Tournament First Team, the MPSF All-Tournament Team and All-MPSF First Team for her work at two-meters. Olympic gold medalist Hauschild collected 47 goals of her own last season while applying pressure on both sides of the pool. Hauschild was a freshman when USC won the NCAA Championship in 2018, although both she and Kearns were away training with their respective Olympic teams when the Trojans last won it all in 2021. Hauschild and Kearns are two of seven returning All-Americans on the 2023 USC roster, alongside Alejandra AznarMireia GuiralCarolyne SternGrace Tehaney and Bayley Weber.

MORE VETS            
In all, USC returns 13 members of its 16-member roster from the 2022 NCAA Tournament. In addition to its seven All-Americans, experienced depth returns in the form of seniors Téa Poljak, Claire HaasBrooklyn Aguilera and Christina Crum, along with junior Julia Janov and sophomores Honnie Vandeweghe-O’Shea  and Isabel Zimmerman..

YOUNG GUNS            
USC’s newest additions come from an array of the best talent in the world, including U.S. pipeline members Morgan Netherton and Maggie Johnson. The Trojans also have added Fresno State transfer Fanni Muzsnay, who also has international experience as a member of the Hungarian National Team. Freshman Alex Bonaguidi is tabbed for duty at center, joined by redshirt sophomore Hannah Meyer, who sat out last season due to injury.

LAST SEASON            
In 2022, USC posted a 20-4 overall record while making an 18th straight appearance in the NCAA Tournament. The Trojans went a perfect 6-0 in MPSF competition before taking second in the MPSF Tournament and reaching a fourth consecutive NCAA final. USC had beaten Fresno State 15-9 in the quarterfinals and then topped Cal 9-7 in the semis to face Stanford in the title match, falling 10-7 to the Cardinal. At the close of the season, Tilly Kearns was selected as a finalist for the Peter J. Cutino Award and was a First Team All-American along with Paige Hauschild. They were joined by fellow All-Americans Bayley Weber (Second Team), Carolyne Stern (Third Team), Mireia Guiral (Honorable Mention) and Grace Tehaney (Honorable Mention). Head coach Marko Pintaric was named MPSF Coach of the Year for the second consecutive season. •

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