USC’s No.1 women’s water polo returns to national waters to welcome gauchos
Women’s water polo shirt | March 10, 2021
# 1 USC (5-0) vs. # 9 UC Santa Barbara (2-1)
Saturday March 13 | 1:00 p.m.
Uytengsu Aquatic Center
Series record: USC leads 25-14 (W13)
Last meeting: USC 19, UCSB 5 (January 22, 2017)
USC No.1 returns to its territorial waters this week to prepare for a non-conference fight with UC Santa Barbara No.9. The Trojans (5-0) face the Gauchos (2-1) at 1 p.m., Saturday March 13 at the Uytengsu Aquatics Center.
USC started this 2021 campaign in the same place it ended the shortened 2020 season – at No.1 in the country. The Trojans have remained at that top spot since those preseason rankings on February 7, remaining at No.1 in this latest round of national rankings (released March 10).
The No.9 Gauchos are 2-1 on aggregate after an 11-10 loss to Cal last week. Amanda Legaspi is UCSB’s leading scorer with nine goals to date. Goalkeeper Madison Button is averaging 8.7 saves and 8.0 goals against per game in her three appearances. In a streak dating back to 1995, USC is 25-14 against UCSB with victories in the last 13 games. The teams last met in 2017, with the Trojans registering a 19-5 win over the Gauchos in Santa Barbara.
BY THE NUMBERS
Five matches at the heart of the 2021 action, Maud Megens leads the Trojans with 15 goals. The effort propelled the senior into the top 10 on the program, as Megens now ranks 9th in career scorers with 178 goals to date. A total of 10 different Trojans have scored so far this year. Senior goalie Holly Parker has also climbed the career ladder, now ranked 8th in USC history with 181 career saves. Parker is averaging 8.0 saves and 7.0 goals against per game in his three cage appearances this season, while the second Carolyne Stern has appeared in two games, averaging 5.5 saves and 6.0 goals against per game. As a team, USC averages 11.4 goals per game offensively, while the defense has allowed 6.6 goals per game. The Trojans have held their opponents scoreless in three full periods so far.
Almost a year to the day since his last competition at the Uytengsu Aquatics Center, the USC No.1 got back to business with a 12-7 victory over visiting UC Irvine on February 13. Anteaters were in fact USC’s last opponent in Uytengsu. – a 9-6 victory over the Trojan on February 15, 2020. In this opener of the 2021 season, USC were propelled by a five-goal outing from Maud Megens and backed by nine backups of Holly parker to help the top-ranked Trojans to a 1-0 start through 2021. After Grace Tehaney lit the fuse on USC’s offensive efforts with a goal in the first minute, Maud Megens scored a hat trick at the end of the first quarter as USC took a 4-1 lead after eight minutes of action. Goalie Holly parker would sniff a 6v5 anteater first chance with a save, then Kelsey McIntosh found Téa Poljak for a score that gave USC a 5-1 lead at the start of the second. UC Irvine converted to a power play later, only to see Megens strike Denise Mammolito for a 6v5 slam 10 seconds before the halftime buzzer, and USC led 6-2 at the break. In the third, the Anteaters had back-to-back goals to bring the score to 6-4, only to see Megens put out a laser on a 6-on-5, then hit the counter to regain that four-goal lead. Going into the fourth, USC led 9-6, and the Trojans retained full control with three more goals in the final quarter. Verica bakoc hit first, and after Parker smashed a 5-yard Anteater penalty shot, he was a freshman Julia janov who scored his first Trojan horse goal to take USC 11-6 ahead. UC Irvine has a 6 to 5 to go next, but Grace Tehaney would complete his hat trick to give USC a 12-7 lead, and the Trojans held on for the rest of the way.
MPSF WELCOMES RETURNING PEOPLE WITH A WEEKLY AWARD
In his first return match with the Trojans since May 2019, Maud Megens scored five goals in USC’s 2021 season opener over UC Irvine. For her dominating efforts, Megens was selected as the MPSF Player of the Week on February 16. This is the sixth of those honors for Megens, who took the 2020 season to train with the Dutch national team for Olympic qualifying. With help from Megens, the Netherlands secured their Olympic qualification last month to book a trip to Tokyo this summer. Now back in the water with his USC team, Megens is standing up for the Trojans. In addition to the five goals she scored for USC against UC Irvine, Megens also provided four assists and stole in the 12-7 victory. Megens is the first to win the MPSF Player of the Week title this season as the women’s competition kicks off for 2021.
Captains Denise Mammolito and Kelsey McIntosh – both All-Americans – are back for a fifth season at USC after seeing their eligibility extended with the cancellation in mid-March last season, which stalled the Trojans 12-1 as they were ranked No. 1 in the country. Mammolito and McIntosh’s experience and leadership bolstered by return of All-American Maud Megens, who took time off from the 2020 season to train with his Dutch national team. With the Netherlands’ Olympic qualification obtained last month, Megens is back in the water with fellow Women of Troy. USC leadership depth charge includes another All-American in his fifth season at USC – goalie Holly parker reflects the balance in the Trojans experience pool for 2021. This quartet, along with the seniors Verica bakoc, Sabrina Garabet, Kari jensen and Randi Reinhardt, already owns a 2018 NCAA Championship ring. And after missing out on the chance to win a crown last season, this senior group is determined and determined to bring another trophy back to Troy in 2021.
Elders Verica bakoc and Sabrina Garabet are joined by All-American Grace Tehaney like the trio of left-handed Trojans snipers on the perimeter. More All-American talent shines in juniors Bayley weber, with its ability to be a force at both ends of the pool. Junior companion Claire Haas grew up in his role at the two-meter lunge, where Randi Reinhardt also registers and junior Mireia Guiral proved that she was an all-American power. Entering their second season at USC, the Trojans have Brooklyn aguilera, Christina crum and Téa Poljak in line for increased action in 2021, alongside another strong junior in Sophie lucas. Additionally, USC has a welcome burst of new talent in a set of four real freshmen in the field – Abigail Hendrix, Julia janov, Hannah meyer and Taylor vangrin.
FIGHTERS IN CAGE
Meanwhile, the USC Guard Corps has a formidable pool of experience and skill. All american Holly parker is the veteran of the group, but the two redshirt in second year Erin Tharp and true second Carolyne Stern saw the time between the pipes last year. All in all, the USC defense will have a reliable red cap to back them up no matter who checks in. And with plentiful defensive sense, USC also has all the makings to be a dangerous counterattacking team.